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By Chris Oddo | Saturday May 28, 2016

If a Frenchman is to win the Roland Garros title for the first time since 1983, it will have to be Richard Gasquet. 6th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to pull out while leading Ernests Gulbis 5-2 in the first set, due to an adductor strain. It’s a tough blow for French fans, who have witnessed Tsonga reach the semifinals at Roland Garros twice in his career and believe him to be the nation's best hope of winning the title, despite the fact that clay is not his best surface.

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Already leading a very winnable match against Gulbis, Tsonga was the highest-seeded player remaining in his quarter of the draw. But when he felt pain early in the match on Saturday, then later felt a sharp, stabbing pain as he raced out wide to retrieve a ball, he knew he was done.

“I felt that my thigh was getting harder and harder,” Tsonga said of the sensations he had after he originally injured the leg. “I thought this is going to be very complicated. And when it was 4-2, I made an effort on the right side and again I felt like being stabbed by a knife. And I realized at that moment that I had like almost zero chances of finishing the match.”

The 31-year-old had never lost to a player ranked as low as Gulbis’ 80 in his Grand Slam career. He says that the injury is an old one that he acquired a few weeks ago, and that his preparations were not great for this year’s Roland Garros.

“When I arrived here, these were not the best conditions for me, because I had still this injury,” he said. “I had an injury two weeks before Roland Garros. It was really too soon. But, you know, I play tennis because I want to play the French Open. I was about to say nowhere else but Paris. So to me I couldn't have thought, ‘No, I'll throw the towel before Roland Garros.’ I tried it.”

It didn’t help that Tsonga had to come back from two sets down against Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.

Tsonga says he’s not quite sure about the severity of the issue, but it sounds like he could play Wimbledon if he can heal quickly. “I don't know how serious the injury is,” he said. “I know what this injury is. I know that I pulled fibers on my adductors. I don't know how much or how far I've gone on these muscles, if it's just a pulled muscle or if it's torn. I have no idea, as we speak. I'll know that in two, three days when I've done the exams, the tests.”

Meanwhile, the hopes of the French faithful will rest on Gasquet. He will face fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori tomorrow. He may not be the favorite, but the Frenchman leads the head-to-head with Nishikori, 6-2.

In other men’s singles action on Saturday in Paris, 11th-seeded David Ferrer muscled past Feliciano Lopez, 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-1, to book his spot in the round of 16 alongside 7th-seeded Tomas Berdych, who defeated Pablo Cuevas in four sets.

Spain’s Robert Bautista Agut defeated Borna Coric in straight sets while 12th-seeded David Goffin needed five to eliminate Nicolas Almagro.


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