Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Tsonga doesn't let tough loss get him down
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Five years have passed since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his dazzling run to the final of the Australian Open at the age of 22.
The flashy Frenchman hasn't been back to the final of a major since then.
Tsonga has a big game that can trouble the top players -- he rallied from two sets down to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2011 -- but he's struggled to beat them consistently. He was just 1-15 against the top 10 players last year, with his only win coming against Juan Martin del Potro in Rome.
The seventh-seeded Frenchman lost another tight match to a top player in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, falling to No. 2 Federer 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3.
When asked after the match why he feels it's so tough for him to beat the top players, a disappointed Tsonga was at a loss.
"To be honest, I have no idea. You know, if you have some advice for me, I will take it because I don't know. I don't know what is the difference," he said.
Tsonga might find success again with a new coach. After going more than a year without a coach, the Frenchman hired Roger Rasheed -- the former coach of Gael Monfils and Lleyton Hewitt -- a few months ago and said the impact has been immediate.
"He's giving me an extra motivation," Tsonga said. "It's great because he's always positive. He wants maybe more than me to win. He's incredible."
Even if he never wins a major, Tsonga remains one of the most entertaining players on tour -- both on and off the court.
In his news conference after the Federer match, he drew laughter when he shared his thoughts on the difference between the top male and female tennis players.
"You know, the girls, they are more unstable emotionally than us. I'm sure everybody will say it's true -- even the girls," he said, jokingly. "I mean, it's just about hormones and all this stuff. We don't have all these bad things, so we are physically in a good shape every time."
At one moment deep in the fifth set against Federer, Tsonga sprinted to hit a drop shot and, after hitting the ball, kept running around the net all the way to Federer's baseline.
He then turned and made a motion like he was going to hit Federer with a ball. The playful moment got a big laugh from the crowd -- and even a little smile out of Federer.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN: Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova sports a tattoo on her right bicep reading, "Pain doesn't kill me, I kill the pain."
A frightening moment during her Australian Open quarterfinal against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday put that maxim to the test.
Serving in the first game of the second set, Kuznetsova landed awkwardly after a fault, stumbled forward and nearly fell on the court.
She played through the pain, but never recovered in the match, winning only one more game in the 7-5, 6-1 loss.
Kuzentsova said later she thought she had reinjured the right knee that had kept her off the tour for six months last year. It was the first major layoff of her career -- ending her run of 40 straight Grand Slam appearances.
"I was really scared because I almost broke it again," said the Russian, whose ranking has slipped to 75th. "My knee went backward, the same way, exactly. It was like millimeters, very close, so I (thought) I broke it again the same way I did."
Even though she lost, the 27-year-old Kuznetsova never imagined being back in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam so soon after the injury. The time off definitely did her some good -- she feels refreshed and can see playing for several more years.
"I never had a thought of stopping tennis," she said. "I always loved (the sport), but I wanted to have this desire to bring me back. This is what happened."
ON THE BEACH: Mike and Bob Bryan have one more Olympics left in them at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Then they plan to stop playing and maybe relax.
The Bryan brothers have little left to accomplish on the tennis court. They've won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles, finished No. 1 for eight of the past 10 years and competed in three Olympic Games, winning gold last year in London.
But the chance to defend that gold will keep them in the sport for three more years.
"I think that's where we see the finish line. We'll be 38. We'd like to maybe go out at that spot," Mike Bryan says. "And then we'll sail off into the sunset."
"Maybe just stay in Rio for the rest of our lives," Bob said. "Check into a motel on the beach and drink some margaritas."
The Bryans stayed on track for a possible 13th Grand Slam doubles title by beating Daniele Bracciali and Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 7-5 to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open.
They'll face the Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini for a chance to play in their fifth straight Australian Open final.
"It's still fun. We create goals and new challenges each time we step out of the house in January," Mike Bryan says. "The goal is to finish No. 1. That's it. That's really what we play for."