Is Tsonga past his peak? The 27-year-old Frenchmen has bounced around the top 10 for much of the last three years, but hasn’t been able to match his run to the Australian Open final here in 2008.
Strengths: Not only does Tsonga bear resemblance to famed boxer Muhammad Ali, he owns the same fighting spirit on the court, as well. It’s a purely athletic, aggressive game that Tsonga plays, attacking the ball from the back court and creating penetrating drives off of both the backhand and forehand sides. His forehand is particularly deadly, a stroke he whips through and doesn’t hesitate the move around to hit an outright winner.
Weaknesses: While Tsonga hits some of the biggest balls in tennis, he can tend to go off the mark from time to time, finding inconsistent spells rather debilitating. While he utilizes a one-handed backhand slice to neutralize the court, he can often over hit when attacking, sending the ball long or into the net. And his usually booming serve can abandon him, leaving him vulnerable to a solid returner (Read: Nadal, Murray or Djokovic).
Opportunities: 2012 proved to have a subdued ending for Tsonga, who was upset in the second round of the US Open before going 0-3 at the World Tour Finals. He had finished 2011 with a bang, going 3-2 at the Finals and making the championship match against Federer one to remember. The world No. 8 will have the chance to save that shinking ship this year after losing to players outside of the top 25 in his last two trips to Melbourne Park.
Threats: While the 6-foot-2 200 lb. Tsonga is 4-9 against the Big Four in majors (not bad, really), he’s gone out to unusual suspects like Martin Klizan, Kei Nishikori, Stanislas Wawrinka and Alexandr Dolgopolov in a handful of majors over the last two years. While these opponents shouldn’t be underrated, Tsonga’s vulnerability is now apparent early on in a Grand Slam, and a hot, steamy Australian day could prove difficult for him to lumber through against a smaller, more tuned-in opponent.
Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director:
“Tsonga’s been a finalist here. He loves the Australian Open, loves the crowd and plays off them. If the crowd’s on Tsonga’s side, he does well. He’s one of our fan favourites … He’ll want this badly, and the question is – does he want it too much? Will he overplay? But regardless, he’s dangerous.”