By Saqib Ali
This past weekend three champs were crowned at the ATP main tour. Jo Tsonga was one of them as he continued a strong indoors season by capturing his 3rd Marseille title and taking his career tally to 14. He was strong through this stretch and is now an impressive 7 in the rankings and 4 in the annual race. His power game and shot making was on full display against his compatriot Lucas Pouille, who himself stopped a slumping few weeks of results. On his way to the title Tsonga won a much anticipated battle with defending champ Nick Kyrgios in the semis. Both men possess easy power, especially the young Aussie has an effortless serve. The match went the distance and after some disagreements with the chair Kyrgios lost serve and it was enough for Tsonga to seal the win. This was easily the best match in Marseille this week. Tsonga has been injured a lot in last few years, so the sight of him winning two titles in two weeks bodes well for his North American hard court swing. Of course the conditions will change but time is running out for Tsonga and other top plyers who have not been able to make a mark at these prestigious events due to the four headed monster also known as the big 4. His best results have been 5 quarter finals appearances in both Indian wells and Miami and has run into Djokovic and Nadal in three of those.
Tsonga is a big match player and he probably remains inspired at his age by seeing the late resurgence in Stan Wawrinka’s career. Tsonga is someone who has played some of his best tennis at the big stages but has run into a top player more often than not. This is a season that has not gone according to form and Tsonga with a new found confidence will head to the California desert hoping for a slight opening of the draw. There are no easy draws in these Masters 1000 events but Tsonga has to be playing some of the best tennis of the year now as he along with Grigor Dimitrov and Jack Sock are the only multi title winners of the young tennis season. Could this be the first time he reaches beyond the last eight in either of the two events? Cannot wait to find out!
Also making his return to the winners circle was Dominic Thiem. Thiem’s playing schedule has been the discussion in most of his press appearances. After securing a decent result in the Rotterdam indoors, Thiem switched surfaces and continents the next week. He came to Rio to play the 500 event. All week long he seemed a different player than last six months. He dictated play with his heavy ground strokes and took his 8th career title without dropping a set. His coach has come out to say that their team acknowledges that they made some questionable scheduling decisions. Thiem is a clear contender on clay and it’s better for him and his fans that he does not enter competition every week. That being said he is switching surfaces again as he is entered in the Acapulco draw this week. He has proven that he can play on most surfaces but the continuous switch in three weeks is little questionable given his top player status. I am a fan of his game and I hope he has rediscovered his winning ways.
This week marks the return of all the big names coming back to action. Djokovic has deepened the already heavy draw in Acapulco, while Federer and Murray will battle it out in the Dubai heat. Tennis royalty is gearing for the Indian Wells event and this week will serve as good preview of things to come.