By Richard Osborn
When 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes to the air after a match, leaping like a slaphappy schoolboy around the court and pumping his fists toward the heavens, you know things are going well.
He’s done quite a bit of that lately.
The 31-year-old Frenchman, ranked No. 8 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, has come out swinging in 2017, having snared back-to-back indoor hard-court titles in Rotterdam and Marseille (the 13th and 14th of his career), while reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. He’s 17-3 on the year. But despite the early success, Tsonga knows Indian Wells presents a whole new challenge.
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“I played well the last few weeks, but of course it was another surface, different conditions,” said Tsonga, a two-time BNP Paribas Open quarterfinalist. “It was indoors. I’ve always played well indoors. It’s something different for me. It’s outside, with all the best players. I’ve played a few tournaments the past few weeks with very good players, but not all the best. Of course, I’m here to play my best tennis, to try to win, but it’s going to be different than the start of the year."
With Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev (who scalped him in the Montpellier semis) all landing in the bottom quarter of the draw, Tsonga's road to the final has sure been cleared of some of its obstacles. But it's hardly traffic-free.
"Not for me, because to play [David] Goffin in the fourth round and then play [Andy] Murray -- I mean, it's not a good draw," he told reporters. "All the draws are difficult. There are so many players who are able to play good tennis today. It's going to be interesting to see who gets through the draw because it's so compact."
"I just need to continue to work, continue on my way," he continued. "For me, it's important to stay healthy. In my career, it's been difficult to stay healthy and be consistent, to play every week, to improve my game every week. I need to play many times against the top guys to get used to that level and try to compete with them."