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Tsonga revives French hopes of Roland Garros glory

Photo: AFP

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled off a stunning upset at the French Open on Tuesday, knocking out world number two Roger Federer. He could now be on his way to becoming the first Frenchman to raise the Roland Garros trophy in 30 years.


Emotions ran high at the French Open on Tuesday as France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga powered past number two seed Roger Federer in straight sets to reach the semi-finals of Paris's grand slam tournament.

From the start of the match, cheering fans marvelled at the underdog’s ruthless forehand blasts and dashes to the net. But as the end neared, the home crowd was electrified by a brazen idea: a Frenchman lifting up the Roland Garros trophy for the first time in 30 years.

Tsonga steamrolled over Federer (7-5, 6-3, 6-3) in less than two hours, breaking out into dance after shaking hands with his rival at mid-court as Parisians exploded with joy.

“I played really well, it was my time,” Tsonga beamed as he headed to the locker room. “I never expected to get this far without dropping a set. I have to stay focused. I’m going to give everything I have in the next round.”

He will now face Spain’s David Ferrer in the semi-finals – Tsonga’s first-ever appearance in the final four of Roland Garros – boasting the kind of momentum that few doubt can now carry him all the way to the final.

30 years of disappointment

The last French player to claim the French Open crown was the lanky Yannick Noah in 1983. That year Noah defeated defending champ Mats Wilander 6–2, 7–5, 7–6 to win the men’s singles title, raising him to the status of national hero overnight.

But in the 30 years following Noah’s memorable campaign, French tennis players have repeatedly tasted defeat on the renowned clay courts.

In 1988 Frenchman Henri Leconte made his way to the final match, but capitulated before the Swede Wilander in three straight sets.

The most recent French bid for the title was in 2008, when Gaël Monfils reached the semi-finals, taking the second set from Federer, but eventually losing to the Swiss star.

While world number six Tsonga was touted from the beginning of this year’s tournament as the best hope of restoring French honour, even the legend Noah gave him little chance of success.

“Jo is capable of beating a top five player at any time, if he plays an exceptional match, but he can't do that twice in a row. Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, over five sets, they are just better,” Noah told Le Monde newspaper in an interview before the start of the tournament.

But after Tuesday's match, Noah was singing a different tune. “I have a good feeling. He’s strong and playing good matches,” he told Le Parisian daily. “I think this time it’s really possible.”

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