For the first time since 2007, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not get past the second round and was knocked out by unknown 52nd seed, Martin Kližan. Although he said he felt fine, he admitted he has a bit of fatigue.
Should we be concerned about Tsonga? Is this the beginning of the decline of this tremendously talented player? I say not. I think this is more of an issue of trying to accomplish too much in one year. Unlike most players, Tsonga does not have a coach. Earlier in the year, when asked if he planned to enlist a new coach, his reply was pleasant negative. "There are two people inside me. One coaches and one plays." Like most self-employed people, I believe that Tsonga thinks he must push himself, no matter what. Although his lack of a coach has seemed to improve his overall ranking, a coach could also advise him to pace himself.
He also gave a hint that the ATP points system may have something to do with his fatigue. He hinted that he did not have enough time off and then stated, "I have to play because I'm not Federer, not Djokovic, and if I want to keep my ranking and not play these guys in round of 16." I understand Tsonga's reasoning behind this. Yet, at this U.S. Open, most of the players in the round of 16 were not in the top ten. That was not a factor.
Yet, his fatigue is more complex than the ATP points system. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has the whole of France on his shoulders. Although the affable Tsonga seems to have the talent, the weight of his responsibility shows. He is the best player from his country and he participates in every national tournament. For his country, he has played twice in men's singles in the Davis Cup championships. In addition, Tsonga played way into the 2012 London Olympic games, including a grueling record amount of games in one match, before he was overcome by Novak Djokovic. He was more successful in doubles play, where he won an Olympic silver medal representing France. By the time the Olympics were done, Tsonga played a lot of intense tennis and unlike normal years, did not have any time off to recoup.
Could Tsonga lighten his load. I think not. In the past, players like Mark Philippoussis had infamous public conflicts with teammates. In the case of Philippoussis, Australian team captain Patrick Rafter, called him out for bowing out of the Davis Cup in 2000. Philippoussis took himself out because of a knee injury, yet the stigma of not being a team player hung over his name. I am sure that Tsonga has not even considered taking himself out of these extra tournaments, but as he watches the rest of the U.S. Open, he may consider a better plan for next summer.
Georgia Makitalo is a lifelong tennis fan whose biggest thrill was attending to the U.S. Open in 2001.
Other tennis articles by Georgia Makitalo:Martin Kližan Surprises All at the U.S. Open: A Fan's Look