Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has won 18 tour-level titles and reached 12 more finals, but only one of those 30 instances came on clay: the 2017 Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon, which was the event’s clay-court debut.
Tsonga arrived in Lyon having only won one match since February. On 18 March 2017, his first child, Shugar, was born. The Frenchman had plenty of confidence from winning titles earlier in the year in Rotterdam and Marseille.
But Tsonga also had been dealing with shoulder pain, withdrawing ahead of his second-round match at the Mutua Madrid Open and pulling out of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Tsonga needed three sets in his Lyon opener against Carlos Berlocq.
“It was a great atmosphere today. The stadium was full. I am very happy to go through this round,” Tsonga said. “It is really important for me to play back-to-back matches."
The Frenchman’s next opponent was a tricky one in the powerful 20-year-old Karen Khachanov. But the second seed began to find his form, defeating the Russian 6-0, 6-4.
“I am really pleased that after playing two-and-a-half hours yesterday, I was feeling great today and didn’t have any pain with my shoulder. This is key for me. I need to be healthy,” said Tsonga. “Today was definitely a better match. I hope that I will keep this rhythm for the upcoming matches.”
Tsonga did just that against another big-hitter in Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, overcoming a second-set blip to reach the final with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” said Tsonga. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”
Tsonga needed to take his level up even further in the championship against Tomas Berdych, who had won eight of their 12 ATP Head2Head clashes. The Frenchman was able to do so, celebrating his third title of 2017 with a 7-6(2), 7-5 win against the Czech.
“I am very happy. First title on clay court. It is now added to my CV, and I can move on,” Tsonga said. “It has been a great week overall.”.readfullarticle