PARIS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world number five, said he “couldn´t have asked for a better script” as he bid an emotional goodbye to tennis at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The 37-year-old Tsonga, who announced last month he would retire following the French Open, lost 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) in the first round to Casper Ruud.
“It was pure madness today. One of the best atmospheres I have seen in my career, and it´s my last match,” said Tsonga.
“I couldn´t have asked for something better. I couldn´t have asked for a better script, apart from the fact that I could have won.”
With a brass band blasting out ´La Marseillaise´ at intervals, Tsonga delighted the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier by taking the opening set, but Ruud, who won the Geneva title last week, hit back to claim the next two sets.
The Frenchman broke for a 6-5 lead in the fourth set but was unable to serve out, immediately calling for the trainer before the tie-break and taking a medical timeout for treatment to his right shoulder.
Ruud, the Norwegian eighth seed, comfortably sealed victory against a visibly ailing Tsonga, who fought back tears before the final point of his 18-year career.
“When I was about to serve and I realised I couldn´t put my arm up, then I called for the physio. But I thought, ´I´m going to stay on the court and finish off this match.´
“I wanted to finish this way, on the court, to do my best, injured or not.
“In any case, there would have been no second match, because I left everything on the court today.”
A video tribute of Tsonga´s career highlights then played inside the stadium as friends, family and fellow players gathered on court for his retirement ceremony.
Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer — all players Tsonga beat at Grand Slams — sent their well-wishes in a series of video messages.
“I really enjoyed it. They are all very happy, because I finally managed to cry,” said Tsonga.
“Well, it´s a moment that is going to be in my memory, but it´s so quick when you´re in it.
“It´s difficult to live the moment that you´re living. My eyes were all over the place. I didn´t really know where to go. When I watch the images again afterwards I will be very moved.”
Tsonga, unseeded, lost the 2008 Australian Open final to Djokovic as the Serb claimed the first of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
He made it to the semi-finals twice at both the French Open and Wimbledon and finished runner-up to Federer at the ATP Finals in 2011.
Tsonga earned Olympic silver in the men´s doubles alongside Michael Llodra at London 2012 and was part of France´s Davis Cup triumph in 2017.
He also won two Masters titles — in Paris in 2008 and Toronto in 2014.
However, his struggles with a number of different injuries in recent years has seen his ranking tumble to 297.