"It's never easy...you have to test your mind to see if you want to come back and play..." Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had said to the media in 2018 when he was recovering from knee surgery. He did return to the competitive court five months later to only bow at the opening and second rounds of most tournaments played.
A year later he would do well at the 2019 Australian Open making the semifinal with Novak Djokovic, but the match did not go his way and he'd lose in three straight sets. Tsonga made up for the losses by capturing two titles that year in the Open Sude de France against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and later the Moselle Open with opponent Aljaz Bedene.
It seems like the Frenchman was on the road to success but then things happened.
The last time Tsonga played was at this year's Australian Open but had to retire in the opening round with a back injury against Australia's Alexei Popyrin who considers the Frenchman his idol.
"I never felt like this after a match. Seeing him hurt, seeing him in pain, having to retire in this match is just...painful," the young Australian would sadly say. It was between resting from his lower back injury and the Pandemic, that Tsonga had time to rethink his calendar of tournaments for 2021.
He decided on withdrawing along with Roger Federer from the upcoming Australian Open due to not physically being ready. The Frenchman admits that "Every grand slam I gave my best so I have nothing to regret." He admitted his condition saying "Despite great progress in months, I am still not able to play in competition..."
It was before the U.S. Open that Tsonga was deciding to enter the French Open but knew physically he wasn't able." ...I still have the morale, the rage, the desire and the motivation to come back in 2021 hoping that things will develop for the better."
But it wasn't to be that his back hadn't healed well enough to fight through tough competitors the ATP has to offer. He expressed his deepest thoughts saying "Getting back to the courts and fighting against all these incredible players would be a dream."
Yet dreams might not be the reality that the Frenchman can rely on at this time. He knows that he has to be on the very top of his game and at 35 it's not for sure how much time he has left to play successfully against younger opponents.
Professional tennis isn't the same as when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga left it nearly a year ago. The Pandemic has caused everyone to be on guard because of the virus and having a changed environment of living 'in the bubble' from beginning until the end of each tournament with frequent tests can at times be too much to endure.
Tsonga hasn't been traveling on tour in a year but can only hope he gets better soon to play the upcoming tour. Nothing is a given but he smiles and realistically says that "It's refreshing to stay at home and do the same things everyday."