Prime Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was one of those players who you watched with your mouth agape. Gifted with a breathtaking ability to produce some of the highest level of tennis most fans have ever seen, his tennis was simply sublime. Take for instance the 2008 Australian Open semi-final, where he played none other than prime Nadal in his peak athletic ability. In all honesty, words and superlatives almost fail to describe just the level of tennis that Tsonga was producing, point after point.
In the first set he quite simply played like a man possessed, and took the set 6 games to 2. However, in the 2nd set, he didn’t just play like a man possessed, but played out of his mind. He finished off 2008 Rafael Nadal in just under 2 hours and in straight sets. Earlier that year, it would have been almost comical to suggest that somebody could beat a healthy Nadal in the semi-finals of a major in under 2 hours. What was so surprising was that Nadal did not even play remotely bad- the problem was that Tsonga was not missing on the forehand side, the backhand side, or with his volleys. Tsonga in that match had 22 winners to Nadal’s 2.
Jo Wilfred Tsonga, however, continued his form over the years. Tsonga defeated 2011 Roger Federer at Wimbledon, to progress to the semi-finals. Tsonga in that match landed 78 percent of 1st serves and 80 percent of second serves, in a performance that would have honestly sent next gen players packing home in minutes and not hours.
All in all, Jo Wilfred Tsonga played an unbelievable brand of tennis against the big 4 who were 10+ years younger – and far more lethal. Would there be an honest argument that could suggest that next gen, with their raft of inconsistencies, could even stay with prime Tsonga? Over the past 5 years, on countless occasions, 32+ year old Nadal and Djokovic had embarrassed next gen at grand slams, and in the earlier years between 2017-2019, the matches at grand slam level were often hardly competitive outside a handful of great matches. At best of 3 level, the level of next gen was certainly there though.
Would Stefanos Tsitsipas from 2017-2022 be able to play against prime Tsonga? Would Medvedev, who seemed to be equally matched with 35 year old big 3, be able to topple 2011 Tsonga in a best of 5 situation? The question truly remains- if Jo Wilfried Tsonga had to play against next gen from 2017-2022, what would his major record be>