French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga believes he has nothing to lose against Roger Federer as he continues along the comeback trail in the second round of the ATP tournament in Halle this Thursday.
Tsonga, 34, missed seven months of last season due to knee surgery but has shown solid form this month upon his return to grass court tennis for the first time since 2017.
After reaching the second round in Stuttgart last week, the Frenchman beat compatriot Benoit Paire in straight sets in Halle on Tuesday to set up a second round fixture with Federer on Thursday.
“It is always special to play Federer, I will give everything I’ve got,” Tsonga told AFP.
“There is less pressure than usual, because there is no shame in losing to Roger Federer. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The Frenchman is one of the few players who can boast of a perfect record on grass against eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer.
The two have met only once on the surface, a gruelling battle at Wimbledon in 2011, which Tsonga won after clawing back a two-set deficit.
“It’s true I have never lost to him on grass, but that is only because we have only played once,” said Tsonga.
“If we had played ten times, the roles would probably be reversed.”
“It is a different situation now. I want to do well, but I am coming back from a long way away.”
Once ranked number five in the world, Tsonga now sits at 77th in the ATP rankings, having slipped as low as 210th after his injury.
Tsonga told AFP he was happy with his return to the tour this season, but that he still felt the effects of his spell on the sidelines.
“I am still paying for it a bit after a whole year of not playing. It’s as if I actually retired last year,” he said.
“But I am happy, there have been no catastrophes. Physically, I am getting better and better each week.”
Speaking after his own first-round victory against John Millman, Federer said he was happy to see Tsonga back on the court.
“We trained together in Miami a few weeks ago, and we get on well,” said the world number three.
“Jo-Wilfried has shown in the past that he can beat me. Whether on hard court, clay or grass, he is always dangerous.”
“It’s a tough draw for the second round.”