FRANCE’S Jo-Wilfried Tsonga thrilled the home crowd when he beat world No3 Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the third round of the Paris Masters yesterday.
The 13th seed, who will qualify for the season-ending Masters Cup if he wins the Paris indoor tournament, will meet American Andy Roddick for a place in the last four.
Tsonga, who lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final before gaining revenge in the Thailand Open final last month, got off to a bright start, breaking decisively in the fifth game to take the opening set before dozing in the second.
The Frenchman, who was sidelined with a knee injury for three months before the US Open, woke up in the third set, stealing Djokovic’s serve in the second game with a superb cross-court passing shot.
He then held serve and sealed the win on his second match point with an ace, triggering a loud roar from the Bercy sports hall crowd.
“Bercy is my home and you need my permission to get in and today, I would not give that permission,” said Tsonga. “For now, I don’t think about [the Masters Cup]. I take it match by match. If I beat Andy, maybe I can snatch a place. So we will see.”
Djokovic, who has now lost twice to Tsonga in the past four weeks, put on a brave face after his defeat. “I know that I’m not playing at the level I played maybe throughout the first part of the season but this is sport. You have ups and downs,” said the Serb.
“He made some unbelievable shots in that second game [of the third set], I think, which was crucial and decisive.”
Roddick secured one of the three remaining spots for the Masters Cup when he overcame Frenchman Gilles Simon’s stern resistance to triumph by 6-3, 7-5.
The American, sixth in the ATP Race, cannot end the week lower than seventh. The top eight qualify for the season-ending tournament in Shanghai.
Argentine David Nalbandian thrashed compatriot Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-0 to boost his chances of grabbing a ticket to China..
American James Blake, who needs to reach the final to qualify for Shanghai, beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4 and will now take on world No2 Roger Federer, who showed no mercy in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croat Marin Cilic.
Roddick needed his best serve to beat the in-form Simon, who reached the Madrid Masters final earlier this month. Although he managed only four points on the 2003 US Open champion’s first serve, Simon proved a tough nut to crack. Roddick broke twice in the opening set but Simon rebelled in the second, creating four break chances, all wiped out by his opponent’s powerful serve.
The former world No1 eventually prevailed in front of Simon’s home crowd on his fifth match point.
Simon, eighth in the ATP Race, still has a good chance of going to Shanghai, depending on his rivals’ results in Paris.
“It’s always an honour to qualify. I think this is six straight years, so that’s a good accomplishment. I’m looking forward to it,” said Roddick, who joined Rafael Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nikolay Davydenko as players already qualified for the Masters Cup, which starts on 9 November.