Wimbledon: Each win is a bonus for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as he plays through pain
ALL-action Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play through the pain barrier when he heads into the “madness” of today’s Wimbledon semi-final against Andy Murray.
Only a fortnight ago, and with Wimbledon just days away, Tsonga was suffering so badly with the finger injury he sustained at Queen’s that hitting a backhand was agonising.
The Switzerland-based player asked his medical team what the prospects were of him being able to turn out for the first round in London. Fortunately for Tsonga the news was positive. The injury to the little finger on his right hand was a sprain, not a tear, and that meant it would not worsen under the strain of match action. So far he has seen off former champion Lleyton Hewitt, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Lukas Lacko, Mardy Fish and Philipp Kohlschreiber, and now comes the trickiest challenge yet for Tsonga as fourth-seed Murray looms.
For Tsonga, each victory has been a bonus, considering his fear that he would be watching the tournament from home. “I thought I wasn’t even going to be able to play here. When I was trying to train at home on the Thursday before the tournament, I wasn’t able to play a backhand,” he said. “The doctors assured me that it wouldn’t be possible to aggravate it so I told myself I’d take the chance.
“I’m still playing under anti-inflammatories and with pain but I think it’s been worth it.”
Tsonga is a crowd favourite wherever he plays and will have supporters tomorrow, but he accepts the Centre Court crowd will largely be siding with home favourite Murray.
While Tsonga was roared on to victory over Kohlschreiber on Wednesday, he says: “It will be a totally different match against Andy. It’ll be madness. Almost all the crowd will be with him. I will have nothing to lose, the pressure will be on him. We’re at a new stage of the tournament now. I’m going to try to play it with a light heart.”
Murray has lost in the semi-finals for three years in a row, whereas Tsonga reached the last four for the first time last year, losing to Novak Djokovic, the man who captured the title.
“It’s a second chance to do something great here. I play to try for the big titles,” Tsonga said. “This one is a fantastic one, so if I have a chance I’m not going to let it slip away. Last year I was in a state of euphoria. I got to the semis by coming from two sets down against Roger Federer. This year, I have my feet firmly planted on the grass and it’s that which makes me think I’m better prepared. I’m more relaxed, more composed.”
As well as preparing on the practice court, Tsonga has also been training his mind with expert assistance. “I’m not a better player than I was before, but I’m stronger in the head,” he said. “I win matches where I start badly and where I am favourite and don’t let go. That’s what makes the best players. They hardly ever lose to the weaker players. The aspect I needed to work on the most was in the head, how to approach games, how to approach my career. I worked with mental experts, I’ve done things differently and that’s a plus. But I still have a lot to do, I still have swings in my concentration.”
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