Mon, Jan 09, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Tsonga wins French battle in misty Qatar

Reuters, DOHA

France’s Gael Monfils returns to compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Qatar Open final at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

World No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final to claim his eighth title in slippery conditions on Saturday.

World No. 15 Monfils beat top seed Rafael Nadal in his semi-final, while Tsonga received a bye when Roger Federer withdrew because of a back injury, giving the bulky Frenchman an extra day’s rest.

That advantage ultimately told in the final, although Tsonga started sluggishly before rallying from 5-3 down in the first set as he claimed nine of the next 11 games against a fading opponent.

“At the beginning of the match, Gael was incredible, he was everywhere,” Tsonga said in a courtside interview. “I made him move a lot. Then he was a bit tired and ... my movement was really good.”

Tsonga and Monfils, each seeking their first title since October when they won in Vienna and Stockholm respectively, began the match as fog billowed past the stadium floodlights and moisture settled on the court.

Play was suspended early on for 35 minutes with the finalists complaining about the wet court.

When the match resumed, both men seemed tentative and hugged the baseline, with no respite from the mist.

At 6-5 down Monfils crumbled, losing his serve to love to concede the set. Tsonga showed no let up, serving to love in the second set opener to land his fifth straight game, a sequence that included winning 15 out of 16 points.

Monfils made it 1-1, but his anger simmered, shouting in frustration at one error, lobbing his racket after another.

He pummeled a forehand wide to gift his opponent the decisive break for a 4-2 lead and Tsonga saw out the match, earning two championship points with a nimble half-volley winner from mid-court.

“I have played a lot of matches and played well. I’m a very dangerous player on the speed surfaces — hard surfaces or grass,” Tsonga said.

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