by Kevin Craig
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earned his 100th win at a major and advanced to the third round of the French Open on Thursday in Paris after battling back from a two set deficit against Marcos Baghdatis, earning the 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win.
Tsonga, who owned a 6-0 head-to-head record over Baghdatis, came into the match with plenty of confidence playing in front of his home crowd, but the experienced Cypriot was up to the task in the early stages.
In the battle of former Australian Open finalists, Baghdatis in 2006 and Tsonga in 2008, Baghdatis’ strategy was to utilize the drop shot as much as possible and make the Frenchman run all over the court. Throughout the first set, that gameplan worked perfectly for the Baghdatis, the former No. 8 player in the world, and it allowed him to have the confidence to go up an early break and eventually save a set point in the first set tiebreak before going on to win it.
The French faithful did not give up hope in the highest ranked French player as he showed signs of being able to battle back from the deficit, despite the fact that Baghdatis had been playing at such a high level. After going up a break early in the second set, all seemed to be right for Tsonga, but Baghdatis was able to break right back before going on to grab another break later in the set. A hold at love, including an ace at set point, gave the Cypriot a two sets to love lead, pulling him to within one set of his first third round appearance at the French Open since 2010.
“He just played perfectly, tactically in the first two, and he pushed me to give the best of myself,” said Tsonga of Baghdatis’ play.
The high quality play from Baghdatis in the first two sets was all for naught, however, as Tsonga was able to battle back, as the majority of the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier expected. Baghdatis, who has struggled with fitness before, including in his epic second round encounter with Andre Agassi at the 2006 US Open, Agassi’s final professional tournament, began to show signs of decreasing energy as he began to make too many errors and relied on his drop shot too much to shorten points.
After dropping the third set, Baghdatis had a chance in the fourth to go up a break again, but Tsonga came up clutch and did not look back from there. Two breaks in the fourth and fifth sets came easily to Tsonga as he was able to eventually pull out the five-set win and advance to the third round where he will take on 2014 French Open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis.
Baghdatis never gave up on the drop shot throughout the match, finishing up by hitting 68 total. “Over five sets that’s a lot of running to the net, very tiring,” said Tsonga, who successfully came back from two sets to love down for the third time in his career.
On the women’s side, both Williams sisters won their matches easily with 6-2, 6-1 score lines. Serena beat Teliana Pereira of Brazil, while Venus defeated fellow American Louisa Chirico.
Venus, who is 15 years older than her opponent on Thursday, cited experience as the deciding factor over the young and talented Chirico. “Louisa has a lot of talent but I think I had the experience. Today, I was lucky that I’ve played 20 years here at Roland Garros…It’s not as much fun when you have to meet an American early on, but the best part is an American will go through,” said Venus.