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Jan

24

Tsonga Through To Oz Open 2008 Final

So Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made the Aussie Open final with a display of raw, explosive and unrelenting attacking tennis. Many are already hailing him as the new force in men’s tennis, ready to challenge Federer, Nadal and Djokovic at the top of the rankings.

Tennis lessons come in all shapes and sizes at 6-0tennis, and this one is no exception. Read on to hear my view on the new French tennis sensation that is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

A few weeks ago when the draw for the 2008 Australian Open was released the British press were confident of Andy Murray making short work Tsonga and moving through the rounds with ease until Nadal in the semis. I knew that the Frenchman would be no pushover and was the kind of player that nobody would want to face in the first round of a slam.

Tsonga has the kind of game that when it is on, blows opponents apart. His explosive movement, aggressive baseline shots and powerful serve makes him a formidable player. His weakness has been consistency over the course of a tournament. He seems to have corrected this problem over in Melbourne and we are beginning to see him step closer to fulfilling his massive potential.

Tsonga won the US Open junior championships in 2003, when he defeated Marcos Baghdatis in the final but has never really translated his junior form into major results on the men’s circuit. Before he beat Nadal yesterday he had never won against a top 5 player. Is this a flash in the pan or can he consistently win at the very highest level? And what can the average player learn from Tsonga’s performances at this year’s Aussie?

Let me give my opinion firstly on the second question. What lessons can we learn?

Watching his performances during this tournament it is obvious he is having a ball. He is striking the ball well out in front and moving it about the court with precision and serving consistently big and accurate. But if I were to take one thing from Tsonga this week – it would be his relaxation.

That’s right; all too often amateur club players get tight on their shots and either put too much on them so they sail out or get nervous and ‘pushy’ allowing their opponents to dictate. Tsonga’s shot making has been full of relaxation and calmness – he is flowing through his shots like water flows through a river.

If you can emulate that same ‘natural’ relaxation with your own strokes I guarantee that not only will you pick-up less injuries and get better results – you’ll enjoy it so much more!

Tsonga reminds me a lot of Marat Safin. Not only in his game; where bruising ground-strokes and explosive athleticism fuel his dominance, but also in his mannerisms. The slow plodding walk, the relaxed almost nonchalant body language and the bursts of fiery emotion.

In my opinion the jury is still out on whether he will go on from here and win grand slam titles – should he win this one or not. The Australian Open always seems to throw up a surprise or two, is this not just another one?

To become a true champion you have to maintain the winning mentality whether you are leading or losing and ultimately show that you can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I don’t think Tsonga has shown us if he is able to do this yet, despite his wonderful form.

For the sake of adding a great character to the men’s game, I hope he will go on from here and become the player that his talent and current form suggests he could be, but the choice is ultimately with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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