Can Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Fly Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee?

Conor McCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2009

It was the Australian Open 2008 when the tennis world (or at least your average lay man), was introduced to the Muhammad Ali of tennis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In achieving astonishing results against some of the world's best players, including Andy Murray and world No. 2 (at the time) Rafael Nadal, whom he defeated in straight sets. He reached the OZ final where he lost to Djokovic in four sets.

He certainly confirmed and assured all tennis fanatics of his defiant status as a true competitor in the highest echelons of one of sport's most beautiful games.

However, for some the question of ''who exactly is this guy?'', still lingers in the mind.

Joe-Wilfried Tsonga Petsonga was born on April 17, 1985 in France, in the beautiful city of Le Mans, located on the Sarthe River.

His father Didier Tsonga, a Congolese man, moved to Le Mans to play handball, the sport he loved. It was for this reason that Tsonga has always had ball sports in his blood.

Tsonga's French inheritance comes from his mother Evelyne, who now teaches in France alongside his father Didier, also a teacher.

He has an older sister Sasha and a younger brother Enzo, who plays on the French Junior Basketball team. Most surprisingly, he has a cousin, the well known Charles N'Zogbia who plays for the English Premier League football team Newcastle.

However, it is his father Didier Tsonga who has had the largest impact on his life and career. Not alone did Didier encourage Tsonga to train hard and respect his family, but furthermore showed him there was a greater meaning to life than tennis.

From the people who are closest to him, Tsonga has been credited with a unique ability to have a broader perspective of life, one stretching far beyond the game of tennis. He always ensured his son had a broader perspective of things and an appreciation for the world that stretches far beyond the game of tennis.

Tsonga's current coach, Winogradsky often credits Tsonga’s father for this.

''He knows about the bad and hard things in life, coming from Africa, so it's all relevant," he said, speaking of his knowledge and experience of life. ''If Jo makes it, it will still only be sport.''

This shows the mentality of the Tsonga family.

This mentality appears to have served him well in the 2008 Australian Open, when he was able to shut out the tennis world that was whizzing around him, and focus solely on his tennis.

Tsonga's strong passion of tennis was nurtured at his very first tennis club, Coulaines, outside Le Mans in Western France. Here at the age of seven he met his first coach, Franck Lefray, who once recalled his desire to practice very hard.

''When Jo was young, he always wanted to train," he said. "When Jo was tired he would not stop.''

Perhaps this is another one of the traits which has served to produce one of the strongest players on the tennis tour.

By the age of 16 Tsonga was playing junior tennis to the highest level. He often trained and practiced with his French compatriot and good friend Gael Monfils.

Under his next trainer, fellow Frenchman Winogradsky, he had a magnificent year in junior tennis in 2003, beating Marcos Bagdadis in the U.S. Open final and finishing second to the Cypriot in the ITF year-end Junior Rankings.

However, back pains and several other injuries were slowing down his progress and it was Bagdatis who made the first Real breakthrough on the senior stage, reaching the OZ final in 2006, only to be beaten by Roger Federer (Hip-Hip...).

After Tsonga's breakthrough performance in last years Australian Open, he is now a well recognised force in tennis, ranked No. 5 in the world. Great future performances are surely anticipated.

He is currently through to the quarterfinal to face Fernando Verdasco (will I say it.......yes), the man who has just defeated Andy Murray the tournament favourite in five sets. Despite this great win for Verdasco, he will be tiring and facing the power of Tsonga, I would not fancy him to come out the victor.

If Tsonga does win, he will be through to the semifinals, and here we are likely to get a repeat of last year's match up with Nadal the probable winner of his match with Gilles Simon, another Frenchman.

Whatever the future may hold for Tsonga, his story is a special one, to the tennis court he has already brought his own unique brand of power and presence.