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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had an incredible comeback season in 2019. The Frenchman powered back into the Top 30 after finishing an injury-marred 2018 (thanks to knee surgery in April of that year) at 239  in the world. He won titles in Metz and Montpellier an earned over thirty victories at the ATP level, but Tsonga told reporters that some of the most important victories and moments were earned on the Challenger Tour.

The Frenchman played three ATP Challenger events in Bordeaux, Cassis and Orleans France and says that the experience helped him reconnect with his true passion for the sport.

“The reason why I went there, as I said, was to have matches under my belt, but it was also many other things,” Tsonga said after his last match at the Paris Masters. “Playing in challenger tournaments, how shall I put it? It helped me find the reasons why I was playing tennis again. Conditions are always more difficult. There's always a battle. You meet with players who are dreaming of being great champions. And even the crowd who is attending is a different crowd.”

Tennis Express

Tsonga reached the quarterfinals on clay in Bordeaux this spring, and in the fall he won the title at Cassis after the US Open and reached the semifinals at Orleans. Those events were perhaps more important than the titles to Tsonga. He says playing those lower-level events helped him get a fresh sense of perspective.

“It's always pleasant to play such tournaments, because then we realize that what we do is exceptional,” he said. “We get closer to the public when we play challengers, and we listen to what people say and it makes you feel good. It helps you have a different view of your career, of tennis at large, and to find pleasure again in playing tennis. There's no pressure anymore. One should not forget that it's not given to everyone to play tennis like this.”

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