French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga recalled his initial years on the tennis courts as a child and a youngster aspiring to become a tennis professional in an interview published by Le Figaro.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on how he got started in tennis
Tsonga says he got introduced to the sport by his father, who took up tennis at the age of 27.
"My father was a tennis instructor to make ends meet. He started tennis at 27 and he had acquired a good level and gave courses to people. When I was not going to football, I accompanied him, he put me against the wall. I watched his lessons and when he saw that I was holding my racket well, he integrated me into his lessons.
He had the presence of mind to entrust me to a graduate coach at Le Mans and that's where I started my climb. The first coach is super important. This contact can define the relationship you will have with this sport. If you come across someone one who is rigid, maybe you can conceive of tennis as a practice or a hard trade.
Someone jovial, on the other hand, will allow you to see tennis as a hobby with great pleasure." The 35 year old Frenchman says if he was given the chance to do everything once again, he would not change anything in his journey so far.
"If tomorrow I am told, tomorrow you start from scratch and you are back at the age of five, I would do everything again in the same way. I played tennis in my garden, on the street. We took a chalk, we traced a ground, for the net it was a wire attached to two bikes.
We played the Roland-Garros final with my friends. I had fun. It's funny because I found this childlike spirit when I was professional." Tsonga also recalled his earliest memories of watching the top tennis players as a youngster.
"The only way I could see tennis was via the Davis Cup and Roland-Garros on TV and a few matches of Berçy. Sampras and Agassi were sometimes scheduled overnight. So, my first big memories is 1996, the final of the Davis Cup France-Sweden.
I saw Boetsch who beat Kulti. I also remember Safin at Roland-Garros. I liked Rafter and Rios. I immediately liked the charismatic players." The Frenchman, who also plans to guide young French players as well, says today's youth are more professional than he was in his days, adding that each generation gets better and more professional.
"I found that this generation there was much more professional than mine. But our elders thought the same of my generation (laughs) ... Overall, I find that this development is going in the right direction. They must protect their health first, think about their moral well-being and continue to evolve intellectually and socially because the career is sometimes short and we must think about the future."
35 year old Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached a career-high ATP singles ranking of world No. 5 and he is currently ranked No. 49 in the world. His best performance at a Grand Slam event came at the 2008 Australian Open when he reached the final as an unseeded player beating four seeded players before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.