Thirty Years After Yannick Noah, France's New Reason For Hope At Roland Garros

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga knocked off Roger Federer to advance to the semi-finals of the French Open. Can history repeat itself?

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga revives French hopes of Roland Garros glory
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga revives French hopes of Roland Garros glory
Bruno Lesprit

PARIS – After his quarterfinal win over Roger Federer at the French Open, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hugged Federer and congratulated the Swiss legend. “Thanks for letting me win this time,” Tsonga said.

Then the French top player came back to center of the court to celebrate reaching the French Open semifinals for the first time in his career. He performed his signature victory dance — thumbs pointing to his back while spinning across the court — as the crowd chanted his name “Tsonga! Tsonga!” This battle cry drowned out the shouts of “Roger!,” the other darling of the Parisian spectators at Roland Garros Stadium, and the Swiss flags were quietly put away.

Tsonga's trademark victory dance

Supporters chant Tsonga’s Congolese family name, and why wouldn’t they? “Jo-Wilfried” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. He hopes to hear it up until the final match Sunday. “I don’t know what more to wish for, these days,” Tsonga said after his win. “I play really well. I want to shout, I want to jump around, but I have to stay focused. I really think I can do this.”

The thought of victory is now the most shared fantasy in French sports at the moment, and it might just come true for Tsonga. Because what the man from the northwest city of Le Mans did on the court against Federer showed that he deserves a shot at the first title for a Frenchman since the one captured exactly 30 years ago by tennisman-turned-singer Yannick Noah.

France's Sports Minister Valérie Fourneyron sees in Tsonga “a maturity in technique, an appetite for victory and a determination to write a new page in the book of French tennis history, and for that, he deserves respect.”

He got some advice from Federer himself, who finally won his first title at Roland Garros in 2009. “Jo must keep his aggressive style, he must keep believing that he can do it and let the audience bring him up and hope that everything falls into place.”

Next on tap is David Ferrer, who rolled over his fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo (6-2, 6-1, 6-1) and sent a few shivers down the backs of spectators. Fans quickly realized that the No. 4 player would be a whole new kind of adversary, as Ferrer is the other player besides Tsonga not to have lost a set so far.

Ferrer lost in the semifinals to Rafael Nadal in 2012, but the Valencian said that “having to play against Jo is not better or worse than playing against Rafa. I’ll have to play long, and a lot on his backhand, and I will need to serve better than that.” Tsonga, meanwhile, has described Ferrer as “a very tenacious player who covers a lot of ground,” someone who is very quick. “But I know that I can beat him,” Tsonga said. “I have the means to do that."

Though he resembles a young Muhammed Ali, people compare this year’s great French hope with Noah, who won over the hearts of the nation in 1983. Tsonga, like Noah before him, is the No. 6 seed. They both took out the No. 3-ranked player. And both were born of a mixed couple: teacher mom and African father skilled in team sports (handball for Didier Tsonga, soccer for Zachary Noah).

Tsonga clarified all the comparisons: “My relation with Yannick? When he sings, I dance.”

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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