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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gives France a much-needed boost

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga leaps for joys on No.2 after his epic match with Sam Querrey
by Michael Beattie
Thursday 26 June 2014

For a fourth day in succession they stepped out on court at Wimbledon, but only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will return for a fifth. Having given in to bad light at 9-9 in the final set on Wednesday, the Frenchman finally found a way past Sam Querrey on Thursday to post a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 6-3, 14-12 victory and book his place in the third round.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s showdown remains the benchmark when it comes to Franco-American marathons, but neither Tsonga nor Querrey seemed ready to make a brief appearance when play resumed on No.2 Court. Both players had wrapped up rain-delayed first-round matches on Tuesday afternoon to set up the showdown. There was to be no swift conclusion here.

Having borne witness to Richard Gasquet’s demise on the same court moments after Gael Monfils bowed out a matter of yards away on Court 12, Tsonga was tasked with preventing an unwelcome French five-set hat-trick. There was no time for the cautious probing of Wednesday’s first set – Querrey was intent on unleashing another barrage of serves and quickfire forehands, and he had to take the game to the world No.57.

Quickly into his stride, Tsonga played with a verve and aggression that forced the American onto the back foot from the outset. The duo traded holds of serve until the 25th game of the decider, when Querrey paid the price for his impatience with a string of forehand errors. Finally ahead for the first time in the two-day epic, Tsonga grabbed his chance, sealing victory when Querrey’s once again found the net from his weaker wing.

“I knew before the match it's going to be tough, and it was,” Tsonga admitted. “But it's always good to win like this. It's good for my confidence, and it's good for my game to stay on the court, play points, live some difficult moments. It's important for me.”

Still, Querrey had his chances, and was able to take the positives from a narrow defeat against a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist. “I had some looks, like the whole fifth set on his serve. I had a 15-30, and then at 30-30 we had another good point. I just tried to keep my head up – it was tough because I hadn't broken him since the first game of the match.

“[This was the] best month’s stretch for me I've had this year. It felt good to win a handful of matches. If I play like I played out there yesterday and today, I'm going to keep moving up in the rankings, and hopefully I can do that and play well in the summer stretch, which is my favourite time of year.”

Tsonga’s five-set record now reads 11 wins to six defeats, and while he admits that wrapping up matches in three sets would certainly make life a little easier, he enjoys the tension of a fifth set.

“I like the fight – since I'm a kid, I'm fighting,” he said. “Everything was not easy for me when I was kid. I’ve always kept this fighting spirit. Today I'm really happy with the way I did because I'm here, winning in five sets. It means that I'm physically strong, mentally focused on what I'm doing, and it's good.”

After two tough openers, Tsonga faces Jimmy Wang, the qualifier from Taipei who stunned Mikhail Youzhny in the second round. “I’ve known him since we were kids,” Tsonga revealed. “Then I never played him again. He was a really talented player – I'm sure he's still the same – so I have to be careful. I have to take this match seriously, be focused on me also, and try to play my best tennis. I'm sure if he's here, it's because he's a good player.”

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