Jo-Wilfried Tsonga free of knee pain and ready to kick-start new season in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has said he is excited about starting the new season, here at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, without any pain in his knees.
Tsonga, 31, saw his 2016 season disrupted by leg and knee problems, forcing the Frenchman to retire during the French Open third round and the US Open quarter-final.
He ended the season in more encouraging fashion, reaching the quarter-finals of the Shanghai and Paris Masters as well as the Vienna Open final. However, it was the first year in which Tsonga failed to win a single title since 2010.
The world No 12 is rounding off his preparations for the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship where he takes on Belgium’s world No 11 David Goffin in Thursday’s first quarter-final.
■ Tomas Berdych Q&A: Health problems in the past, 2017 can be ‘a successful year’ starting in Abu Dhabi
“I have prepared really well in the off season, so I feel really good,” Tsonga said. “We had a few practices with David Goffin in the last couple of days. It’s nice to play with him because he is now part of the best players in the world. So, it’s good to have a good opponent for practice.
“I feel I am still young and feeling good. The end of 2016 was good for me, so that raises my expectations for 2017. Physically I feel really good, so I hope it’s going to be a good year.”
Tsonga is confident he has banished his injury issues, particularly the knee problem that plagued him for the past few years.
“The past year was difficult because I had the problem with my knee,” he said. “I was coming back every time and my body balance was not that good. It gave me lot of trouble.
“Towards the end of last season, the problems with my knee came to an end. Now, I don’t have pain anymore. I had pain for a few years. So for me, it is great; it gives me expectations for the next season as I will be able to play with my two legs.”
Meanwhile, Tsonga’s opponent on Thursday has set out his ambitions for 2017 — breaking into the world’s top 10.
Goffin, 26, enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2016, reaching the quarter-final of the French Open and the fourth rounds of the Australian Open and Wimbledon. He also made it to the semi-finals at Indian Wells and Miami, his first semi-final appearances at a Masters 1000 tournament.
“I reached the semi-final in the beginning of the year [in Indian Wells and Miami],” Goffin said. “That gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. I played in the quarter-final at the French Open for the first time and that also added to the confidence. After that you know you can do it.
“Hopefully I will try to get the same result in 2017 and even better if I have the opportunity. I am not in the top 10 at the moment, but I will try to get there, of course. Once I reach that, it will be fantastic.”
Goffin’s success in the early months of 2016 also means he will have plenty of points to defend, but the Belgian is not treating it as pressure.
“When you are in top 20 or top 10, you always have points to defend, almost every week,” said Goffin, who is making his Mubadala World Tennis Championship debut this week.
“So now I don’t feel the pressure. I am looking forward to playing tournaments because when you have good memories, you want to come back and you are happy to be there. So hopefully, I can play my best tennis.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport
Updated: December 28, 2016 04:00 AM