x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Tsonga hopes to make good in the UAE this time around

The Frenchman had hoped last year that competing in the event at Zayed Sports City would help propel him into good form for the season.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has to drop out due to injury during practice just before arriving in Abu Dhabi.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has to drop out due to injury during practice just before arriving in Abu Dhabi.

Twelve months ago Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was eagerly anticipating beginning his 2010 preparations by taking part in the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The Frenchman had hoped that competing in the event at Zayed Sports City would help propel him into good form for the season.

But an injury picked up in practice meant Tsonga was forced to withdraw, with his place being taken by Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss player.

That would be the prelude to a frustrating year for the 25-year-old, and he is hoping to kick-start an improved 2011 campaign on the ATP Tour by finally competing in Abu Dhabi for the third staging of the exhibition event.

"Last year I was forced to withdraw from Abu Dhabi due to injury so I'm even more determined to be at my best for this year's tournament and make a winning start to the season," he said.

Tsonga has proved to be something of an enigma on the men's tennis circuit ever since he first came on the radar in spectacular fashion in 2008, reaching the Australian Open final as his powerful ground strokes saw him beat Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray before going down in the final to Novak Djokovic.

On his day and on form he is a formidable opponent, but inconsistency and injury have meant he has never truly kicked on from his breakthrough tournament in Melbourne, and he now is ranked No 13 in the world.

Repeated problems with his left knee led to a fractured season in 2010. He was first sidelined by the problem in July shortly after he had been knocked out of Wimbledon at the quarter-final stage by Murray.

He was forced to miss the US Open as he did not return until October, but he aggravated the injury later that month playing in a ATP tournament in Montpellier and that ended his season, forcing him to miss the final tournaments on the ATP calendar and also the Davis Cup final, where he was forced to watch as his French compatriots were beaten by Serbia in Belgrade.

Tsonga would almost certainly have been part of the French team had he been fit, and missing out rankled with him.

"The lay-off and disappointment in not being able to play in the Davis Cup final has only made me even hungrier," he said. "I've certainly missed competing."

Having missed out on the opportunity to play in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago, Tsonga is relishing the chance to play this year and is hoping it will give him the impetus to shine at the Australian Open.

"I've heard so much about Abu Dhabi from the guys on tour and it's a place I've always wanted to see for myself," he said. "The weather, facilities, crowd and players of real quality make it an ideal place to start the season and prepare for the Australian Open."

Tsonga reached the semi-finals in Melbourne last year despite only showing glimpses of his best, losing to Roger Federer, the eventual champion. But he will have to achieve a personal first in Abu Dhabi if he is to go to Australia with a confidence lift.

His first-round opponent is Robin Soderling, the world No 5, who reached the final of last year's tournament in Abu Dhabi before losing to Nadal in the final.

Tsonga has lost his four previous encounters with Soderling and he will be hoping it is fifth time lucky if he is to make it through and meet Federer in the semi-finals on December 31.