Dubai: Top-ranked French player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga remains convinced he can end his Grand Slam drought, despite having slipped to tenth in the Emirates ATP Rankings following injury and a loss of form.
Tsonga reached the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open on Wednesday by walkover after his opponent Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of their second-round clash with a rib injury.
It maintains the Frenchman’s creditable start to the new season, with a fourth-round defeat to Roger Federer at the Australian Open being followed by his contribution of two points in France’s 5-0 whitewash of Australia in the Davis Cup.
Last week, however, Tsonga failed in his bid to lift the Marseille Open title for the third time when he lost to Ernests Gulbis in the final.
“Today I’m still looking forward and I’m still looking to try to win some Majors and stuff like this. But that’s it. In the world now, there are maybe five or six guys who have won Grand Slams since the past ten years, so it’s not a lot,” he said.
“I see myself continuing to work, continuing to improve my game. Nobody knows what will happen in a few weeks. So I will keep fighting and I will stay confident, and this is the key. It’s not a bad start, but I didn’t play a lot, so I need to play some matches to get the rhythm. It’s coming match after match, and I’m sure I will be a better player every day now.”
The 28-year-old’s career has faltered in recent times after he climbed to a career-high ranking of No.5 in February 2012.
The Le Mans-born star had been ranked as the No.2 junior in world in 2003 behind Marcos Baghdatis.
And having claimed a US Open junior title and reached the semi-finals at the other three Grand Slams in the same year, it appeared that Tsonga was well on his way to stardom.
The entry into the men’s world was not exactly what Tsonga had expected as recurring health issues held him back.
In 2005, a herniated disc followed by an injured shoulder thwarted his progress.
A year later, abdominal problems and persistent back injuries sidelined him further.
But he was still named 2007 ATP Newcomer of Year and 2008 ATP Most Improved Player of Year.
In 2009, the Frenchman underwent knee surgery and the following year he was out of action with a right hip injury.
He had two good years in 2011 and 2012 and they allowed Tsonga to climb back into the top 10.
However, once again a left knee injury forced him to retire injured from Wimbledon last year in the second round, forcing him to compromise on achieving his full potential as a top player.
The amiable Frenchman harbours no regrets, though.
He said: “We all have our own way to join the top. I had many, many problems at the beginning of my career, so I lost a bit of time. But after that I came back and it was not easy every day, but I came back and I did some good things.”