Tennis-Simon draws inspiration from Tsonga in gruelling French Open win

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 24, 2022 France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reacts after playing his final match before retiring, after losing his first round match against Norway's Casper Ruud REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

(Reuters) - Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's battling performance in the final match of his career proved to be a source of inspiration for compatriot Gilles Simon, who defeated Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in a gruelling five-setter at the French Open.

Former world number six Simon, playing after Tsonga's loss to Casper Ruud on Tuesday, said his former Davis Cup team mate's spirited showing had spurred him on to a 6-4 6-4 4-6 1-6 6-4 first-round win.

Simon, who is also playing in his final French Open, had failed to get past the opening round at his eight previous tournaments and was beaten 6-2 6-1 by 308th-ranked Oleksii Krutykh at the ATP Challenger Tour in Heilbronn, Germany earlier this month.

"It's not my last match, but it will be my last Roland Garros, for my last five-setter, because it's my last Grand Slam," Simon told reporters.

"I said to myself, 'well, it would be great if we could see the true Gilles Simon one more time.'

"Not the one that lost two and one against Krutykh in Heilbronn. But the one who could be on the court, play three, four hours, and who is going to be brave and try to find solutions to fight back.

"That was my state of mind when I entered on the court. I said to myself, 'Well, Jo was really strong, and I want to do the same thing'. Sometimes you really want something and you don't succeed, but here I wanted it very hard, and I succeeded."

Simon will face American Steve Johnson in the second round.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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