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By Chris Oddo

Tsonga bites the Marseille trophy (February 25, 2013) -- Lot's of heroes and zeros to get to this week, so without any further ado, let's begin with the week's No. 1 hero, the flamboyant Frenchman himself...

Hero: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

There is something so beautiful about persistence in tennis. We've heard all the catch phrases and buzzwords: Battling it out. Grit. Fortitude. Mental toughness. Resilience. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga embodied all these on Sunday and he threw in a little clutch and a lot of passion as well when he defeated Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 for his tenth career title in the Open 13 finals.

"This is a great victory," said Tsonga afterwards, "I stayed in the match even when it was very difficult and waited for my chance."

It was difficult. That much we saw. With Berdych playing majestic tennis in all three sets, the imposing Czech did all he could to take the crowd--and Tsonga--out of the match. But Tsonga wouldn't die. The Frenchman is a player who is known for his impetuous virtuosity and free-flowing athleticism, but on Sunday Tsonga was a cool, calculated and stubborn adversary. He was the cockroach that you couldn't kill, the spirit that wouldn't subside.

When he faced a match point in the second set, with the French faithful at the edge of their seats in Marseille, what did Jo do? He launched back-to-back aces, and took the set on the next point. Moments later he was notching a critical break and taking the title home on home soil.

You can't put a price on this type of victory, both for Tsonga, who'll no doubt be high on confidence coming into Indian Wells, and for French tennis in general. Imagine you're a six-year-old French junior in the stands. How confident and jazzed about playing tennis are you going to be the next time you take the court? Tsonga's victory is the type of victory that inspires whole generations of kids to take up the racket and play the game with passion.

Tsonga could have easily hung his head on Sunday, accepting the fact that he was up against a player that was just too good. Instead, with his obstinate fury, Tsonga showed us all why he's more than just a gifted talent that treats a tennis court like a canvas and a racquet like a paintbrush. He's also a battler, a warrior, a fighter. All the catchwords and slogans in the world won't do him the justice he deserves for this win.



Zero: Vika and Serena

Zero, as in zero points for pulling out of Dubai and depriving us of a rematch of the Doha final. Both players were subsequently fined for their actions.

Hero: Jack Sock

Sock thrilled Memphis with a massive takedown of second-seeded Milos Raonic, followed by a very strong effort against James Blake to reach his second career quarterfinal. The 20-year-old climbs to a career-high ranking of 130 with the result, but more importantly Sock sparked the imagination of American fans with his confident on-court demeanor and electric game. He's got moxie to burn, and lots of time to learn. Extra points for reaching the doubles final in Memphis with James Blake.

Zero: Quisner

While Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jack Sock were inspiring the patriotic fervor of tennis fans in their respective countries, Sam Querrey and John Isner fell short in Memphis with a resounding thud. To be fair, both are in the top 25, and Isner has been suffering from a knee problem while Querrey is a respectable 9-4 on the year. But regardless, Memphis is a winnable event for both. It's indoors on the fast surface that suits Isner and Querrey, and it's on home soil, where the fans are friendly and the cooking is good.

With the clay court season coming up fast, opportunities to make points are very precious, and in our opinion, Quisner blew a nice chance to pad their rankings for the spring.

Hero: David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori

David Ferrer notched his 20th career title, fighting past an inspired Stan Wawrinka in Buenos Aires to prove his clay-court supremacy over everybody not named Nadal once again, while Nishikori was absolutely flawless in the Memphis final, where he claimed his third ATP title over Feliciano Lopez.

Zero: Cyber Bullies

Both Rebecca Marino (definitely) and Laura Robson (reportedly) brought the issue of cyber bullying front and center last week. In a world where what is virtual and what is real is no longer so clearly defined, let's hope that the exposure to this very serious topics enlightens a few people who clearly need to realize that if you won't say it to somebody in person, you probably shouldn't be saying it on Twitter.

Hero: Feliciano Lopez

"Deliciano" netted his 300th career win in a very fine performance in Memphis that saw him end the week just one match away from becoming the oldest title winner on the ATP tour this year. His ranking rises to No. 35 as a result of his hard work.

Zero: Sloane Stephens and Ryan Harrison

The "Next Big Thing" blues have hit, and Stephens and Harrison are a combined 1-4 since the Australian Open.

Hero: Rebecca Marino

Life, what a crazy game. It's not all about winning matches, titles or kicking ass on the tennis court. Sometimes it's about finding your center, and simply being the best, most dignified person you can be. In her admission that she'd be stepping away from tennis in order to deal with the depression that has affected her life for six years, Marino shared her most private and intimate pains so that she could facilitate the healing of others who are also suffering quietly from depression.

Hero: Petra Kvitova

Serena and Vika may have pulled out, but that doesn't change the fact that Petra Kvitova claimed three top ten scalps and netted the prestigious Dubai title last week, the tenth of her young, and still very promising career.

Zero: Francesca Schiavone

Schiavone is 1-5 in 2013. She's 2-11 since the Olympics. Will Francesca ever be Francesca again?



Hero: Marina Erakovic

The 24-year-old picked up her first career title in Memphis, taking out second-seeded Sofia Arvidsson in the second round and eliminating Sabine Lisicki in the final.

Zero: Caroline Wozniacki

For this silly quote: "I'm not sure it's coaching if I talk to the coach." Okay, and we're not sure if you're joking when you talk to the press. I guess we can call it even?

Hero: Ross Hutchins, Andy Murray and Tim Henman

To raise money for hero No. 1 Ross Hutchins, who is currently battling his way through a six-month chemotherapy treatment to fight Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Heroes No. 2 and 3 (Murray and Henman) will play an exhibition on finals day of London's Aegon Championships on June 16th. "As soon as Ross started talking about the idea," said Murray, "I knew I wanted to get involved. We want to make it a day to remember... I'm looking forward to raising as much money and awareness as possible so the charity can continue to do the amazing work it does, which I've heard all about through Ross."


(Photo Credit: Gillaume Horcajuelo/ EPA)

 

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