Flying solo, Tsonga moves into 4th round

Flying solo, Tsonga moves into 4th round

Published Jan. 21, 2012 6:32 a.m. ET

Judging by how he twirled around the court on Saturday, arms lifted overhead and a huge smile on his face, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has certainly got his Melbourne groove back.

The flashy Frenchman unleashed his trademark victory jig, which never fails to entertain the crowd, after defeating Portugal's Frederico Gil to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Tsonga is now hoping he can keep dancing into the tournament's final weekend.

''You know, every year and every tournament, it's a bit the same story for me. I play better and better every match,'' he said. ''Today I played well and didn't spend a lot of time on court, and it's good for the rest of the tournament. Anyway, I'm confident.''


Big things have been expected from Tsonga ever since he broke through at the Australian Open in 2008 as a 22-year-old, beating Rafael Nadal in the semifinals before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.

But while he has established a reputation as one of the game's most entertaining players - not to mention best dancers - major titles haven't come his way. He hasn't even made it back to a Grand Slam final again.

Last year at the Australian Open, Tsonga was upset by Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine in the third round - his worst showing in Melboune since 2007.

Then in April, he made a big change. He parted ways his coach, Eric Winogradsky, who had been with him for seven years and helped guide him to five ATP titles and a career-high ranking of No. 6.

The decision was met with surprise, even skepticism, by some in the French tennis fraternity.

Patrick Mouratoglou, a former coach of Marcos Baghdatis, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aravane Rezai, said at the time he wasn't certain going solo was a good idea for Tsonga.

''In my experience, it is not possible for anyone to reach the Top 10 without a coach,'' he said. ''All the players have someone, even Roger Federer had Severin Luthi when he was claiming he had no coach.''

Since the split, however, Tsonga has not only returned to the top 10 - he's back at No. 6 again - he has also enjoyed some of the best results of his career.

He reached the semifinals of Wimbledon for the first time - coming back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals - and made the finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London, where he lost to Federer.

He's on a seven-match win streak to start 2012, as well, after his victory at Doha two weeks ago.

''You can improve your game by yourself, also,'' Tsonga said after his win on Saturday. ''I'm here maybe because I had a coach, but now I feel like I have to follow my opinion maybe a bit more.''

He also admitted that he's not completely on his own - he's been taking tips from some of the game's great entertainers.

Last year, while practicing in Las Vegas, he said he talked with Andre Agassi and the eight-time major winner offered some advice. Mansour Bahrami was also sitting among Tsonga's support team at Hisense Arena on Saturday.

''Yeah, he supports me,'' a smiling Tsonga said without elaborating. ''I think it's enough. But anyway, he (teaches) me some tricks, but not to win.''

Tsonga let reporters in on another secret on Saturday, as well. While his post-victory dance routine has been well-viewed on YouTube, not many knew about his singing.

''Sometimes I sing on the court, so you think I'm talking, but I'm just singing,'' he said. ''It gives me the concentration.''


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