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Tsonga downbeat on local French Open hopes
Allan Kelly
11:54 AEST Sat May 26 2012

French No.1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday said he stood by his comments that there was little or no hope this year of a Frenchman winning at Roland Garros for the first time since Yannick Noah in 1983.

The comments, made in Rome last week by the world No.5, shocked many in France and drew fire from Noah himself who said that at the very least home players should "dream" of winning the only claycourt Grand Slam tournament.

Asked if he had any regrets over what he had said, Tsonga replied: "No, not at all. We all need to dream, and I think I wouldn't be No.5 in the world if I had not dreamt and if I didn't continue to dream.

"But it's also true that for each tournament, each time I sign for a tournament, the objective - let's be clear - the objective is to go all the way.

"So sometimes some people said I was a bit presumptuous, but I think that so far we (French players) have never won.

"We have never won any Masters tournament on clay. We never won any Grand Slam, whatever the surface.

"At the moment, no one would place a bet on one of us winning a Grand Slam tournament tomorrow."

The 27-year-old Tsonga has never been totally comfortable on clay, finding that his natural power-hitting and preference for short, rapid-fire rallies is unsuited to the rigours of claycourts where patience and tactical nous are essential.

In five campaigns so far at Roland Garros he is yet to make it past the fourth round.

And on why it has taken so long for another home champion to emerge 29 years after the hugely popular Noah, on what is the classic French tennis surface, Tsonga has his own ideas.

"Is it paradoxical? Yes and no," he said.

"Roland Garros, of course we can practice here, but, you know, just two weeks in a year, and that's all.

"Then it's cold, it starts raining, and then we start playing indoor. This is where we are the best, where we have the best results.

"So since we were young kids I started playing on clay but indoors, and that's very different from outdoor clay.

"We played a lot indoor because in our country our training facilities are all in the north of France. Most of them. The best of them are in the north of France, so you can't play outside very much.

"That's it. If one thing was to be changed for future generations, that would be it. I think it's our worst surface at the moment."

Tsonga will open this year against Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and will run into world No.1 Novak Djokovic should they both make it through to the last eight.