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The Tennis Conversation: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga & Gilles Simon on saying goodbye to Roland Garros
Full of mixed emotions, the two Frenchmen will each take the court Tuesday at their home major.
Published May 24, 2022
WATCH: When Tsonga edged Simon in Marseille this year:
On Tuesday in Paris, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon are scheduled to take the court at Roland Garros. Both are playing the event for the final time, with Tsonga set to say farewell to the ATP Tour afterwards and Simon aiming to complete the season before hanging up his racquet.
The draw wasn’t kind to either Parisian favorite, putting each competitor in the underdog position. Tsonga will step out first—in the second match on Philippe Chatrier—against No. 8 seed Casper Ruud. Simon is last on Simonne Mathieu, where he meets No. 16 seed Pablo Carreño Busta.
TENNIS.com caught up with the Frenchmen ahead of their openers, discussing their emotions, preparation and what their home major means after all this time.
You’ve had some time to think about this tournament approaching. Now that we're here in Paris, what are your emotions going into your final Roland Garros?
TSONGA: My emotion to play this last Roland Garros is just two sentiments. The first one is a little bit of sadness. And then a lot of excitement.
SIMON: On the emotions, there are a lot of things happening, a lot of memories also from the previous editions. I played 16 times.
You have very, very different feelings on the memory and this is why. When I play for the last time, I know it could be one way or another. It could be fantastic, it could be difficult. And that's why I'm a bit worried also. But again, I would try to enjoy as much as I can.
Can you truly be ready for an occasion this momentous?
TSONGA: I think you cannot prepare for a moment like this. It's really unique. I just want to live the moment. I don't want to know how it's going to be, or how it's going to be there at the end. I just want to live it. It's part of my story and hope I will be able to enjoy it.
Of course, I would be emotional. There is no doubt on this because I just live too much crazy things to stay stable mentally. It’s going to be something really special for me, I think.
A result aside, what are you hoping to get out of this one-of-a-kind Roland Garros in your career?
SIMON: I'm looking to have a good experience, which is difficult. I have a very mix of feelings inside of me right now. I'm excited in a way. I'm happy and honored to have one more chance to compete and play in the French Open. I'm a bit worried on the other side about the performance I will deliver, especially against a very good player, like Pablo (Carreño Busta).
Have you done anything differently in the lead-up this year?
TSONGA: No, I do nothing differently than the other years. I just want to play. I just want to be the one I was when I started to play on those courts, just give my best. And when it's going to be finished, at this time, I would be able to be emotional and to think about everything.
SIMON: I'm just trying to do the same. I have my routines now. I know what to do. I had a very long session Thursday because I noticed it [was] the last day to have a very long session and still recover. I try to prepare as good as I can, and this is what is difficult, is you feel you are doing even sometimes more than before you pay attention to everything.
Expanding on that Gilles, what’s been the challenge for you in trying to get through one final season as this tournament is not the finish line for you?
SIMON: In the end, you are not in the best shape [like] before. It's actually the other way around. It's harder and harder so you are a bit working against time here. And that's why also I decided to stop in the end of the season, because it's a very huge amount of effort not to feel good enough in the end. I will try to keep it as professional as I can, put everything I have left on the last six months.
It’s likely too much to have you select just one memory, but is there something specific from throughout your time at this major that comes to mind as a lasting impression?
TSONGA: As a competitor here, it's almost everything. Especially when I share with the crowd, it's a special moment every time. And it always gives me a goose bump. it's something special.
SIMON: It's really difficult, but I will say the first win. We played the National Cup since we are 10 years old here, and I was always losing first round, too much stress, impossible to play. I remember that I had the feeling I just cannot win one match here. It's impossible. That's how I was feeling going on court, no matter if I had much better ranking than my opponent had, I was in better shape, I felt like here I'm going to lose everything. I'm so stressed. I cannot play. And you finally make it. I remember the feeling is good.
Jo, to finish us off, sum up what Roland Garros means to you today after your journey to this point.
TSONGA: Roland Garros means a lot for me, for sure. I can tattoo Roland Garros on my skin.
It's been a long journey here with disappointment, with incredible moments, with so many things. Roland Garros is tennis for me. I watched Roland Garros when I was kid, then I dreamed to be on court. Then, I was on court and now I have to say, ‘Goodbye,’ to Roland Garros.
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