Playing in his native country, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his first victory on the ATP Tour since March 2021 in Montpellier. The former world No. 5 defeated Polish qualifier Kacper Zuk 6-4, 6-4 at the Open Sud de France on Tuesday in his first round-level action of the new year.
The ATP 250 win is also Tsonga’s second tour-level win since 2019. The 36-year-old has only played two games in 2020 due to the pandemic and a chronic back condition. He went 1-8 last season but did not compete after Wimbledon due to a right leg injury.
“It’s just amazing for me to be here on the court playing,” he said after the win on court Patrice Dominguez. “I’ve had a tough few months and to win like this for one of my first games of the year is just fantastic for me.
“You can’t do it without the people around you. I am lucky to have very good people around me, and it gave me the opportunity to experience moments like this.
Against 23-year-old Zuk, Tsonga broke in the final game of each set to secure a hard-fought victory. In the opener, the Frenchman led from an early break to see his world No. 172 opponent come back from 40/0. The tables turned again in the 10th game of the set, however, as Tsonga won the final five points of the set to go 40/0 himself.
The second set stayed on serve until Tsonga made the crucial breakthrough on his third match point, which doubled as his 11th break point of the contest.
Tsonga finished with seven aces and a 90% win rate on first serves, despite making just under half of his first deliveries.
The Frenchman will face Serbian Filip Krajinovic on Wednesday. The fifth seed won 7-5, 7-6(3) over Australian Alexei Popyrin in the first round. In their second-round match, Tsonga will be looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since racing to the quarter-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters in October 2019.
Frenchman Gilles Simon also qualified for the round of 16 after defeating his compatriot Lucas Pouille, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4. Simon, 37, qualified for the main draw and will now face second seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who received a bye in the first round.
Another French qualifier, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, advanced 7-5, 6-2 over Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. He next faces sixth seed Alexander Bublik, who won 7-6(4), 7-6(5) over Tallon Griekspoor on Monday.