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All French South African Open Final Goes To Tsonga

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga South African OpenTop seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated first-time finalist Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7-6(5) in an all-French final at the SA Tennis Open on Sunday to win his third ATP World Tour title. Courtesy of winning the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Johannesburg, Tsonga collects 250 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points and $79,000.

World No. 14 Tsonga was contesting his fourth ATP World Tour final. The Le Mans native reached his first final at the 2008 Australian Open, where he lost out to No. 3 Novak Djokovic. However, he was able to avenge that defeat later in the season by defeating the Serbian to capture his first ATP World Tour title at Bangkok. One month later in November he won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Paris (d. Nalbandian) to clinch his spot at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai.

“Every time I play [ATP World Tour] finals now my level is going up and I play great, so it is good,” said Tsonga afterwards. “I think for the first edition it was just amazing,” added the Frenchman about the inaugural tournament. “Everything was fine, I have nothing negative to say. The court was perfect.”

The 23-year-old Tsonga, who raced to the Johannesburg title without the loss of a set, made a strong start to his 2009 ATP World Tour campaign by reaching three consecutive quarter-finals at Brisbane (l. to Gasquet), Sydney (withdrew due to back injury against Nieminen) and the Australian Open (l. to Verdasco). However, his South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings dropped from No. 7 to No. 14 after his 2008 Australian Open final points dropped off.

In the first all-French ATP World Tour final since Casablanca in May 2008, Tsonga was able to secure a one-set lead after breaking through in the 10th game to seal it 6-4. A fifth double fault from the right-hander gave Chardy a triple break-point chance at the start of the second set, however he was able to recover and hold for 1-0. Tsonga was presented with his first match point with Chardy serving at 4-5, but he failed to convert and the set went to a tie-break – which the older Frenchman won 7-5 after one hour and 48 minutes to improve to a 12-2 match record on the season. After his customary post-match celebration, Tsonga dropped to his hands and knees and kissed the court in jubilation.

“I think he played well today because it was really tough,” said Tsonga. “I played a great match, I served very well and I think his inexperience was evident at 5-4 in the first set when he missed some easy shots. But now he has some experience and I hope he’s going to do well next time.”

Tsonga, who saved all eight break points that he faced in the final, lost serve only twice in 48 service games in his five matches at the SA Tennis Open. He served 16 aces in Sunday’s championship match and lost only six points behind his first serve.

“I think it’s the best part of my game,” said the Frenchman. “I improved it a lot last year and now I’m really confident on important points.”

Photo by © SATO/Reg Caldecott

Posted by Shelia

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