It was about this time last year that the Frenchman with the wide grin had his passion for tennis soured when hehad damaged his knee and was forced to pull out of Montpellier the same tournament that he now has won. The injury would keep him out of the 2018 French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S.
Open besides from other tournaments, but it was all for his own good. He was diagnosed with a damaged meniscus last February and had the operation in April. Tsonga had told his fans and the tennis community on social media that "..I couldn't escape a little operation that took place yesterday and went very well...our goal is always to tread the beaten ground this season..."
He was on crutches for awhile and did his rehab, but longed for the action of playing and came back prematurely to the Moselle Open in mid-September. The first match back was with Germany's Peter Gojowczyk where he lost in three sets in the first round.
He also attempted doubles, pairing with a comrade Frenchman Ugo Humbert. But it must have been too soon and they lost to the Albot/Basilashvili team. Tsonga entered the European Open going only two rounds bowing to Gael Monfils and the Vienna Open going the three rounds with Sam Querrey with losing results.
The Paris Masters he'd falter to Milos Raonic as his rankings started crashing. Tsonga felt a new season was coming and wanted to make changes so he hired the Spanish Davis Cup captain and former player Sergi Bruguera onto his team.
The 2019 season brought hope for Tsonga but the knee wasn't quite 100%. The Brisbane International Tsonga felt a bit improved winning in straight sets over Japan's Taro Daniel and Australia's Alex de Minaur. The Australian Open was good for the Frenchman's morale but he still couldn't give Novak Djokovic a challenge and loss in theree sets to the Serbian, proving that his game wasn't totally back.
Tsonga was fortunate enough to get a wild card entering the Open Sud de France, a tournament he couldn't make last year because of the knee operation. He used the card well. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga thought this to be his one redeeming star and felt he had to be successful here.
Timing was everything for the Frenchman who did exceptional at the beginning of this mostly French tournament affair. It was his doubles partner Ugo Humbert who was creamed by Tsonga of the opening round in three sets. Gilles Simon couldn't win a set with his opponent who had proven the flexibility in his knees was healed and functioning nicely.
Jeremy Chardy thought that he'd stop Tsonga's luck when he won the opening set of the third round but it was a no brainer as Tsonga came back ever so strong winning a tiebreak and then the deciding set. By now, Jo-Willy was sizzling.
He played with confidence and self-assurance opening up the court, blasting shots in places his opponents were struggling to reach and had the movability to change positions with his forehand and backhands. The overhead, the spins and slices were right on point and Tsonga had good timing and indication on where and when to use them on his helpless opponents.
Radu Albot of Moldova had sliced and diced a tired Marcos Baghdatis to win their round but got the same treatment from Tsonga who had leg power and agility to get to balls he might not have reached before his knee operation.
This was the first time in a while the Frenchman played with such brilliance and a lack of struggle at winning. Tsonga only had one more round and hoped his diabolical strategies and aggressive play wouldn't let him down.
It didn't. There might have been a flurry of nervous butterflies at mid points in games, but it never hindered Jo-Willy and he shook it off and went on to thrash Pierre-Hugues Herbert's game with the utmost care and direction.
Tsonga won in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 in a match that never seemed to be compromised, despite a few good Herbert tactics. Tsonga had to capture the Montpellier title as his team and new coach Bruguera looked on smilingly. He lost out on the event last year and wanted to pt on a good performance.
He was givent the wild care to enter. He wanted to show his new coach what might be the protocol for the continuing season and he wanted to show the sponsors and himself that he has risen above injury to be a new and improved Tsonga.
He had to win Montpellier and no one was let down with such a brilliant performance from a happy and content ATP player as Tsonga who proved he was back.