(Reuters) – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is still working his way back after a long-term injury but the home favourite has promised to leave everything on the court when he takes on Japan’s Kei Nishikori in Wednesday’s French Open second round.
Tsonga overcame German Peter Gojowczyk on Monday to reach the second round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2016, as he did not compete here last season and fell at the first hurdle in 2017.
The 34-year-old spent seven months on the sidelines last year due to a knee injury and fell as low as 262 in the world rankings in November.
But he is already back to world number 82 after his title triumph in Montpellier in February, followed by a semi-final appearance in Morocco to kickstart his claycourt season.
“It’s been difficult, because each time I want to do my best, I’m putting myself under pressure,” Tsonga said.
“I need to revitalise things a bit more and … enjoy each moment.”
Nishikori is a familiar foe for Tsonga, with the pair having met three times on the Grand Slam stage.
At the 2015 French Open, Tsonga edged Nishikori in a five-set thriller lasting three hours and 45 minutes to reach the semi-finals.
The roller-coaster encounter, which saw Nishikori rally from two sets down, was interrupted for about 40 minutes after a sheet of metal panel fell in strong winds and crashed onto the Court Philippe Chatrier spectators below.
“I had played very well the first two sets, and then there was this stop because of the panel, and he came back with different intentions than what was happening during the first two sets,” Tsonga said.
“The match was balanced. He came back, and I did a fantastic fifth set on the centre court with a fantastic crowd.
“So that’s the type of matches you enjoy, because everything is present. You have a great player in front of you. You play your best tennis.”
In the day’s other big matches, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will face German opposition in the second round. Third seed Federer takes on German Oscar Otte, while 11-times champion Nadal will face Yannick Maden.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)