Tsonga wins in Qatar, but real test waits in Oz

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Tsonga wins in Qatar, but real test waits in Oz


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France holds up the golden eagle trophy after his final match against compatriot Gael Monfils at the Qatar Open tennis tournament in Doha on Saturday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

DOHA, Qatar - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga shrugged off a slow start to beat Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in an all-French final at the Qatar Open on Saturday, and give himself a confidence boost for the Australian Open.

The sixth-ranked Tsonga, who reached the final when Roger Federer withdrew with an injury, fell behind 3-1 then found his rhythm, coming to the net more often and reeling off the final four games to win the first set.

The momentum carried over into the second set, when Tsonga kept Monfils off balance with his powerful forehand and occasional drop volleys. Tsonga broke Monfils to go 4-2 up and won the match when Monfils hit a backhand into the net after a long rally.

“At the beginning, it was bit difficult. He broke me very early and it was tough,” Tsonga said. “But in my head, everything was right. OK, I’m one break down. I will continue to play my game and make him run a lot. I think it was good solution. After that, he was bit tired of that and I was better than him.”

Tsonga improved to 3-1 against Monfils.

His eighth career title also came in his third successive final. The previous two were at the end of last year, in the Paris Masters and ATP Finals, and both were lost to Federer. The Swiss star pulled out of their Friday semifinal because of back spasms, so as to be fit for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 16.

Tsonga said he was counting on his Doha success to carry over to Melbourne, where he was a finalist in 2008. He refused to predict how deep he can go in the tournament, partly because he didn’t face Federer, Rafael Nadal nor No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in this tournament.

“You know, my target is to go as far as possible, of course. If I can win it, I will,” he said. “I think of it, and I really want it, like I think most of the other players. So I do everything for that and this is why it’s exciting, because I don’t know if I will do it one day or not. But anyway, I work for that, and my ambition is to win a Grand Slam.”

The 16th-ranked Monfils didn’t show the same range and firepower he demonstrated in his semifinal win over second-ranked Nadal. He also hurt himself by racking up 27 unforced errors and struggling to get hold of Tsonga’s serve, winning only 27 percent of the points off his second serve.

Monfils said he would take away a lot of “positives” from this week even though he admitted he ran out of energy in the final. He was especially upset with himself for fading in the first set, allowing Tsonga to break him to tie the set and break him again to win it.

“Today, I was maybe less powerful than I was during this week, because I think also Jo played different,” Monfils said. “He was playing a bit soft and then changed the rhythm, like a bit hard and mixed it up with some slice. I had some opportunities in the first set, and I was maybe a bit less aggressive tonight to finish the first set.”

The match was delayed for 35 minutes after the first game by a fog which made the court too slippery for the first time in the tournament’s 20-year history.

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