© Pascal Ratthé/Tennis Canada

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga assists with the draw ceremony at the Coupe Rogers.

Tsonga: "Every Year The First Round Is Tougher"

2014 champion looks ahead to Coupe Rogers

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga helped out with the draw ceremony Friday at the Coupe Rogers, but the draw didn’t do the 2014 champion any favours. The Frenchman was placed onto line 32, opposite Sam Querrey and Gilles Muller.

“I’m playing the winner of the last two players to beat me,” he told the crowd in French with a laugh.

Tsonga, indeed, lost to Querrey and Muller respectively during Wimbledon and the Aegon Championships, victims of his opponent’s memorable runs. Querrey went on to reach the semi-finals at the All England Club, knocking out defending champion Andy Murray in the process, while Muller ran up a seven-match winning streak that included the Eastbourne title.

Flash back to three years ago at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, and it’s easy to remember Tsonga’s inspired run on the hard-courts of Toronto. During that dream week, he upset four straight Top 10 players – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (3R), No. 9 Andy Murray (QF), No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov (SF) and No. 3 Roger Federer (F) – to claim the title.

Looking ahead to his campaign this week, Tsonga said he didn’t feel any differently about his chances now at age 32.

“I’m feeling good,” said the World No. 12. “I’m in good shape. I did a good start this season. I won three tournaments, and today I’m still in the game to play a Masters. For me it’s a big challenge to play here in Montreal, try to beat these guys and try to get some important [Emirates ATP Rankings] points for the end of the season.”

And though his three titles (Rotterdam, Marseille, Lyon) are the most he’s won in a single season (also in 2009) since turning pro 13 years ago, Tsonga commented that the quality of the field – particularly at the Masters 1000 tournaments – continued to improve with each passing year.

“Every year the first round is tougher. It’s more difficult,” he said. “We are lucky because at this time tennis is great. I think it’s good for the fans.”