Tsonga rules out French win
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (File)
Paris - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has given almost impossible odds for a home player to win the French Open as the crown jewel in the country's vast tennis array begins on Sunday.
"At the moment, no one would place a bet on one of us (French) winning a tournament, a Grand Slam tournament," said the 2008 Australian Open finalist who has never been past the fourth round in four Roland Garros appearances.
Tsonga, seeded fifth, begins in the first round against Russian Andrey Kuznetsov at an event where a possible seventh title from Rafael Nadal or a fourth major in a row from Novak Djokovic are dominating all preliminary conversation.
The last French success at home came through Yannick Noah in 1983, which occurred more than 30 years after the previous French titles in the 1940s.
That came when Marcel Bernard won the men's trophy in 1946, the ninth win by a Frenchman in 16 tournaments after the event went international. Noah is the only French winner of a major in the Open era.
"Each time I sign for a tournament, the objective is to go all the way," said Tsonga. "But we have never won any Grand Slam (besides Noah in the post-1968 era), whatever the surface.
"We can't claim that we are going to win it. Maybe we're capable of winning it, but we can't say, I'm going to win. I can't walk in Roland Garros and say, I'm going to win.
"I can say I have the capacities. I'm going to do everything I can. But I can't say, I'm gonna win."
Among the other 31 matches on court in what has now become a 15-day event, former number one Andy Roddick, now barely hanging on inside the top 30 and a loser in three clay matches this week at the Dusseldorf tune-up event, will face French iron man Nicolas Mahut, who played the longest match in tennis history against John Isner at Wimbledon, 2010.
Roddick made a comeback this week from a hip injury but has so far little to show in the clay which is his least favourite surface.
In the women's draw, 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur of Australia, seeded sixth, plays Brit Elena Baltacha, while German Angelique Kerber, newest member of the WTA top 10, faces China's Zhang Shuai.
2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, the Serbian 13th seed, opens with qualifier Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino of Spain at the event where Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova head the field with Serena Williams considered a threat to win the tournament for the first time since her Paris title a decade ago.