Ex-French Open champion believes in Tsonga dream
PARIS — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s march through the French Open card has convinced Yannick Noah that he can become the first Frenchman to win at Roland Garros since he himself did so 30 years ago.
Noah, whose straight sets win over Mats Wilander in the 1983 final remains an iconic moment in the modern history of French sports, had been dismissive of home hopes ahead of this year’s tournament saying that the current generation were not up to it.
But Tsonga’s superb form, which has seen him reach the last four without losing a set, including a straight sets demolition of Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, has led to a rethink.
“What I have seen so far is that he has had a great tournament, very solid, very applied,” the tennis player turned pop star said.
“Very impressive and what strikes me especially is the attitude he has. You can see that he is determined to go all the way.
“He deserved his win over Federer. He was simply the better player on the day and it’s true we are starting to dream that he can go all the way.”
Tsonga, the fifth seed, stormed past a befuddled Federer 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to prove that his aggressive, physical game can work just as well on clay as on grass and hardcourts where his best wins have been so far.
Next up in Friday’s semi-finals is an out-an-out claycourt expert in the form of Spanish “bulldozer” David Ferrer, but Noah believes that his fellow Frenchman has the game to dominate that clash.
“It will be difficult against Ferrer, that’s for sure,” he said. “He is a tough player to beat, very stubborn.
“But I really believe that Jo can win this match. I would love to see him do so. Love to see him go all out and love to see his face when he has won.”
Noah and Tsonga’s backgrounds are remarkably similar.
Both are the offspring of marriages of African sportsmen fathers who came to France to ply their trade and stayed on after marrying French women. Noah’s father was a footballer from Cameroon, Tsonga’s a handballer from Gabon.
But the similarity ends there according to Noah, who remains one of the most popular personalities with the greater French public.
“Our style of play is very different and we don’t have a lot of things in common when it comes down to personality,” he said.
“He is quite a shy guy who is totally transformed when he gets onto the court. Then he is a real warrior. He is a lot more powerful in his game than I was.
“But what we have in common is a real desire to give some pleasure to the fans, who have been frustrated for so long.
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