Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is no longer. The 37-year-old retired after his first round defeat to Casper Ruud. But for nearly four hours, it was a show for the ages.
Organisers went for local lads and lasses for the first three matches on centre court. The day's proceedings kicked off with the top French women's player Alize Cornet. She crushed Misaki Doi from Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 58 minutes. And she obliged with the usual guff about playing on her favourite court in the whole wide world. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was up next. The former world number five, who has fallen to 297 following a spate of injuries, didn't fare so well. He won the first set against eighth seed Casper Ruud but the 23-year-old Norwegian came back and won it in four. And it was followed up with third seed Paula Badosa from Spain against Fiona Ferro. But by the time they came on to play, everyone had gone. Rude.
We can't help ourselves. But we were transported to days of our youth when Judge Roughneck was in full flow against poorly behaved young men who were dubbed rude boys. Special days indeed. But the 23-year-old Norwegian was politeness incarnate after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets to advance to the second round. "I don't want to talk about the match," he told on-court interviewer Fabrice Santoro. "I want to talk about Jo." And he did. Completely by-passed Santoro to deliver a wonderful homage to Tsonga.
It could so easily have gone into uberschmaltz. But the organisers kept the tribute show to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga just the right side of gushy. After his first round defeat to Casper Ruud, the ceremony paid homage to the second most successful French player since tennis was opened up to professionals in the late 1960s. He won 18 titles and at various points beat all the top players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He was in the top 10 for 260 weeks and was loved by all. There was not a dry eye in the house.
No country for old men
You can't make it up. After breaking Casper Ruud to lead 6-5 in the fourth set, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga went to the level of a very good club player. His right shoulder had gone. And he couldn't serve with any venom or hit the ball with any menace. It would have probably got him through against most decent players but he was up against the world number eight Casper Ruud who finished him off quite ruthlessly.
Old men say well done
During the tribute ceremony, there were video tributes to Tsonga from Andy Murray, 35, Novak Djokovic, 35, Rafael Nadal, 35 and Roger Federer 40. "I've loved Jo since we were kids," said Nadal. "And now he's retiring ..." Nadal, who will be 36 on 3 June, raised an eyebrow wryly and added: "We're getting old."