A smiling assassin: Tsonga's greatest hits

 - Simon Cambers

We look at the remarkable career of the popular and talented Frenchman.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roland Garros 2022, practice© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

The curtain has come down on the career of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at this year’s Roland-Garros, the 37-year-old becoming the first of the so-called Four Musketeers (Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils are the others) to bow out.

Tsonga signs off after a sterling journey, which includes a Grand Slam final and five other semi-final appearances, 18 titles and a top ranking of No.5.

Charismatic and athletic, Tsonga’s swashbuckling style and signature celebration will live long in the memory.

Here are some of his greatest hits.

January 2008: Reaches Australian Open final

Faced with Andy Murray in round one, Tsonga was barely talked about as a threat but he dispatched the Scot and then went on a tear to the semi-finals, where he produced one of his best performances as he battered world No.2 Rafael Nadal in straight sets, not even facing a break point. Non-plussed, Nadal could only compare Tsonga’s level to that of then world No.1 Roger Federer.

“Federer is Federer, he can play at this level or little bit better, but better than tonight is really difficult,” Nadal said at the time. “Is different the styles, but Tsonga tonight was unbelievable. Some volleys, I can't believe some volleys. I have some good passing shots and then drop shot volley. I didn't understand.”

Tsonga won the first set in the final against Novak Djokovic, only for the Serb to come back to win in four. “I'm very proud of myself,” Tsonga said. “I'm happy for Novak, because he played unbelievable today. I don't know if I have to be sad or happy of this final, but I feel great.”

October 2008: Wins Paris Masters title

Outside of the four Grand Slams, for a Frenchman there is nothing bigger than winning the Paris Masters, held every autumn in Bercy.

Tsonga had won his first title in Bangkok but needed a big week in Paris to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals for the first time and boy did he deliver.

After beating Radek Stepanek in round one, he gained revenge on Djokovic and then beat Andy Roddick and James Blake to make the final, where he beat the defending champion David Nalbandian in a three-setter punctuated by blistering forehands as the crowd went wild.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Paris Masters 2008Christophe Saidi / FFT

August 2009: Stuns Roger Federer from 5-1 down in third set in Montreal

When he trailed world No.1 Federer 5-1 in the final set of their quarter-final at the Montreal Masters, Tsonga had a quiet word with himself.

"I did not feel real good – 5-1 down and Roger playing well and I had no solutions," Tsonga said. "I just told myself, 'You have to hit the ball one more time than him,' and I did it."

He broke Federer twice to get back into the match and even after the Swiss saved three match points to force a final-set tiebreak, Tsonga held firm to clinch victory, much to Federer’s dismay.

"It's obviously disappointing but you know, that's what Jo does – he doesn't make a return for an hour and then he puts in a few and then all of a sudden he's back in the match," Federer said. "I should never have allowed it, but it happened, so it's a pity."

June 2011: Beats Roger Federer at Wimbledon

Having beaten Federer before, Tsonga was not overwhelmed when he stepped out to face him again two years later in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

But when he trailed the five-time champion two sets to love, few gave him hope, not least since Federer had never lost from two sets up in 255 Grand Slam matches.

But Tsonga went on all-out attack, serving like a dream, bashing returns and following them. Slowly, but surely, Federer wilted and Tsonga won in five to reach the semis, where he was beaten by Djokovic.

Roger Federer, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, QF, Wimbledon, 2011Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

June 2013: Beats Roger Federer at Roland-Garros

Federer has been revered as a god in Paris for most of his career but this time, the fans got behind Tsonga and roared him on to perhaps his best ever win at home.

“Since a couple of months I tried to manage my career as well as possible," Tsonga said. "I was waiting for a reward because I'm practising hard every day. Today I got the reward. I played the right shot every time I hit the ball.”

Sadly, Tsonga fell flat in the semis against David Ferrer.

Roger Federer, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, QF, Roland-Garros 2013Christophe Saidi / FFT

August 2014: Beats Djokovic, Murray and Federer to win Toronto title

It’s arguable that Tsonga never put together a string of better back-to-back performances than that week.

First he took out Djokovic, then Murray and after a win over Grigor Dimitrov in the semis, he beat Federer again, becoming the first man since Rafael Nadal in Hamburg in 2008 to beat Djokovic, Murray and Federer in the same event. “The win over Djokovic was a little strange because I won 6-2, 6-2,” he told the ATP Tour’s website a few years later.

“It’s never been like that with him. The win over Andy was the most difficult for me. It was a big match with a lot of intensity that was tight in the third. I was very proud to win that because he’s such a fighter. With Roger I played the perfect final. It was amazing.”

June 2015, Roland-Garros: Beats Nishikori to reach semi-finals

For drama, Tsonga’s quarter-final battle with Kei Nishikori topped his 2013 win over Federer, not least since the match had to be stopped when Tsonga was leading by a set and 5-2 as a big piece of metal panelling fell down into the crowd, injuring three spectators.

That gave Nishikori a chance to breathe and though he didn’t win the second set, he got himself back on track and levelled at two sets apiece. But Tsonga regrouped again and finished off Nishikori to make the last four.

“It was a special match,” Tsonga said this week. “I remember we stopped because of an accident in the stadium. The scenario of the match was really special. It's part of my best memories here in Roland-Garros.”

Kai Nishikori, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, QF, Roland-Garros 2015Philippe Montigny / FFT