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Unbroken Tsonga continues to impress

By Brian Cleary
Sunday, September 06, 2015
WHAT HAPPENED: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seeded No. 19, continues to impress at the 2015 US Open. In his fourth-round match Sunday in Louis Armstrong Stadium, he took out fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. For the fourth straight match, Tsonga didn't drop a set or lose his serve.
 
Tsonga, who reaches the quarters here for the second time in his career, will next take on the defending champ and No. 9 seed Marin Cilic, a winner Monday over Jeremy Chardy in four sets.  

The No. 19 seed, who was dealing with a forearm injury at the beginning of the year that caused him to miss the Australian Open, and whose ranking briefly dropped out of the Top 20 in August for the first time since 2008, has looked solid throughout the tournament. 

“I had a problem at the end of last year, the beginning of this year,” Tsonga said after the match, referring to the injury. “But I’m coming back at a great level.”

The Frenchman, who did not even face a break point in this match and who has now won 56 straight service games in the tournament, knows his serve is a big part of his success. “I’m serving well, and it puts a lot of pressure on my opponents,” he said. 

This match was dead even and on serve in the first set with Paire serving at 4-5, 15-0. But momentum seemed to swing Tsonga’s way when Paire just missed a forehand out wide, and after thinking about it and looking over at his supporters for a long moment, decided to use his last remaining line-call challenge for the set. When the scoreboard revealed that the ball was out by a good inch, Paire seemed miffed, some in crowd laughed, and Paire preceded to play a hasty, error-filled game, punctuated by his first double fault at 15-40. 

Like the first, sets two and three were decided by a single break of serve. The second set turned with Paire serving at 2-3. Tsonga hit a sizzling backhand passing shot to get to 15-40. Pierre saved the first break point, but Tsonga gained the decisive advantage when Paire came in behind his serve on the next point only to miss a fairly routine backhand volley into the net. In the third, Tsonga broke in the ninth game, then held at love, closing things out the match with his 10th ace. 

WHAT IT MEANS: The 6-foot-5, 26-year-old Paire, who came into the tournament ranked No. 41, certainly has nothing to hang his head about after this defeat. In the first round here, he took out the defending champ and No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori in five sets, saving two match points in the process. He also took out the No. 26 seed Tommy Robredo in the third round, in straight sets.

While he started the year off ranked No. 118, this has been a true breakthrough year for him. His previous best result at the Open was reaching the second round, which he accomplished three times. In his career, he’s gone as far as the third round at all three of the other Grand Slams.

Tsonga, 30, who reached the semifinals of Roland Garros earlier this year, has seen his results drop slightly of late. He was knocked out of the third round at Wimbledon by Ivo Karlovic and lost both his matches in France’s Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in July. And while he reached the quarters at the Rogers Cup, relative to last year’s Rogers Cup, which he won, beating Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer along the way, it was a bit of a disappointment. After that event his ranking dropped from No. 12 to No. 24. 

But he’s been cruising so far in New York, and because of his lower seed, slightly under the radar. That will change if he continues to impress, particularly against the defending champ Cilic. 

THE QUESTION: Tsonga and Cilic is a matchup between two veterans with a lot of success, both of whom are playing great. Who do you like to advance?
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