January 17, 2018
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hasn’t always been known for his comebacks.
When he’s good, he’s very good. When he’s off his game, he can sometimes look half-hearted.
But what Tsonga produced against young sensation Denis Shapovalov will live long in the memory.
And, sorry as we are to see one of the most exciting newcomers leave the stage, it’s hard not to be pleased for one of the nicest guys in the game.
Tsonga was 2-5 down in the final set. He had seemed ready to fold towards the end of the third, which he lost 1-6.
But this time Jo-Wilfried wasn’t done. He won a fourth-set tie-break to take the match into a decider.
Then, sensing his opponent tighten with the finishing line in sight, Tsonga summoned his best tennis to storm back and set up the match against home favourite Nick Kyrgios.
The Frenchman spoke as well as he played, saying of Kyrgios: ‘He’s got the fire in his arms. I think it’s going to be a good match.
‘Everybody knows what he will try to do, what I will try to do.’
It is a contest Kyrgios will relish too, since he used to look up to Tsonga, ten years older, as a boy.
‘I’m looking forward to it, he is one of my idols,’ confirmed the controversial Australian, who beat Victor Troicki 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
It surely can’t be more eventful than the latest Kyrgios match. An attention-seeking fan interrupted play, a helicopter hovered overhead with seemingly endless persistence, the umpire’s microphone was faulty and he also copped a wayward return in the head.
Kyrgios was calm afterwards, at least. He said: ‘It was tough, a lot of things going on. We had a helicopter above us for like three games and I thought yeah, had to be my match.’
There seemed to be drama everywhere. Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic, who turns 39 next month, showed that you can still play thrilling five-setters at that age, especially if a big serve shortens enough points.
Karlovic, who has had to overcome a severe stutter at various stages of his life, brought a beautiful fluency to his tennis in the big moments.
Ultimately he triumphed over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 7-5, 4-6, 12-10. It took four hours and thirty-three minutes. But Ivo won’t care about that as he savours the moment.