Friday, 22 January 2016

Tsonga stronger

On Margaret Court Arena it was France to the fore with ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga duelling with the 167th ranked Pierre-Hugues Herbert.  Better known for his doubles prowess, Herbert has done well to reach the third round, but his realistic expectation today would not be to win over a former Aus Ooen finalist.

Herbert began nervously and Tsonga capitalised on his errors to break for the early advantage.  The ninth seed served well from the start and after four games had a 3-1 lead.

4-2 was reached after both players held serve, Tsonga winning points through service winners and forehand strength, Herbert displaying his doubles skills and volleying to success on a number of occasions.

At 3-5, Herbert had to hold serve to remain in the set.  He struggled until two forehands forcing Tsonga into error closed out the game for 4-5.

Serving for the set, Jo actually found himself down a break point before he pulled out two successive 219 km/h serves en route to winning the game and set 6-4.

At 1-1 in the second set Tsonga hit a terrific forehand passing shot and with a few netted errors from Herbert, the break arrived and Jo had a 2-1 lead.

Two double faults and a ripper return winner from Herbert broke the Tsonga serve to the shock of the crowd and when Herbert held his own serve with poise, he actually led for the first time in the match, if only the set 3-2.

Tsonga served well to level things but Herbert was even more impressive with serve volleying, kick serving and more to edge ahead again 4-3.

Both players remained strong on serve, Herbert particularly mixing it up well after losing the first point to an exquisite lob from Tsonga.  5-4 to Herbert.

Tsonga served an ace then a double fault, then another ace for 30-15.  A Herbert backhand down the line winner brought it to 30-30 and a volley winner made it set point.  A tremendous rally should have ended with a magical lob from Herbert but Tsonga not only reached it but played possibly the shot of the match with a withering backhand cross court winner to save the set point.  He then proceeded to bash two aces to hold serve and games were 5-5.

Another amazing backhand from Tsonga and the loss of the next point had Herbert in strife at 0-30 but his serve again assisted him to win through for 6-5. Tsonga once more needed to hold and force a tie break.  Which he did.

Tsonga had the advantage thanks to a forehand crosscourt winner to lead 2-1, but at 2-4 Herbert won three successive points to lead 5-4.  Tsonga responded as the ninth seed should and won his two serves with big serves to lead 6-5.  A great volley saved Herbert and it was 6-6.  Points went with serve until 7-8 and Herbert to serve.  Sadly a double fault gave the set to Tsonga 9 points to 7 in the tie breaker.
Tsonga led 6-4 7-6.

Jo served first in the third set and held solidly for 1-0 before breaking the Herbert serve.  At 2-0 and two sets up, it wouldn't surprise to see Tsonga assert his authority and run through the rest of the match.  However, Herbert would have none of that, instead concentrating on returning the Tsonga serve and in fact breaking it.  2-2 following another respectable hold of serve by the previously unfancied French player.

3-3 arrived and no clues were given as to how this set would go.  

Two return winners from Herbert concerned Tsonga and gave us 30-30.  Another point each and it was an unexpected deuce.  A break point after constant rushing the net from Herbert annoyed Tsonga into error.  Big serves erased the danger and Jo led 4-3.

Herbert remained determined to stick around and held for 4-4.  Huge serving from Tsonga sent Herbert straight back to the line, this time doing everything to stay in the match, trailing now 4-5.

That obstacle avoided, another was thrown in his path with 5-6 the score after another pair of service holds.
Herbert forced a tie break following a solid service hold.

The first nine points went with serve, no sign of a break.  Close now to either a set or match point. A netted backhand from Herbert gave Tsonga 6-4 and two match points.
A netted forehand from Herbert closed the deal for Tsonga,

The ninth seed won the tie break 7-4 and the match 6-4 7-6 7-6 earning a fourth round clash with Kei Nishikori.  Herbert, for a player ranked where he is, did a sterling job.

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