JO-WILFRIED Tsonga won his maiden Masters Series event when he defeated Argentine David Nalbandian 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters yesterday to clinch the last qualifying spot for the season's finale in Shanghai.
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The 23-year-old Frenchman joined Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro as the players who qualified for the Masters Cup, which will start on 9 November.
"It wraps up a very rich season for me. I played very well. The icing on the cake will be Shanghai. I'm just happy," said Tsonga, who broke into tears when Nalbandian netted an easy backhand on match point.
"He has had a great week, he is a great player and congratulations to him. I am very happy to have reached the final," said Nalbandian, who ended Andy Murray's winning streak at the quarter-final stage.
Australian Open runner-up Tsonga, whose only previous title was the Bangkok Open in September, will climb to world No7 when the ATP release their rankings today.
With compatriot Gilles Simon moving up to ninth, France will have two players in the top 10 for the first time since Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte in 1988.
Tsonga, seeded 13th, got off to a flying start, breaking for 2-0 as Nalbandian, who was looking to become the first player to retain his Paris title, served two double faults.
With a series of devastating forehands, the Frenchman did not release the pressure and kept his cool to stave off a break point with a volleyed winner in the seventh game.
Tsonga, the first Frenchman to win at Bercy since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001, bagged the opening set with a service winner.
World No8 Nalbandian picked up his game and both players were strong on their service as four straight games were won to love.
Tsonga then went 40-0 down on his serve in the eighth game, but he once again showed his mental strength by saving the three break points with two aces and a smash.
He was helpless on Nalbandian's fourth break point, which gave the Argentine the second set, sending the match into a decider. Tsonga quickly took command when he broke in the third game, shrugging off another break point with one of his 25 aces. He then held serve to wrap up victory after surviving three more break points.
Nalbandian's season, however, is not finished yet as he is to play the Davis Cup final with Del Potro against Spain in Mar del Plata, Argentina, later this month.
"I am very happy to play this Davis Cup final, especially in Argentina. I am very happy about this end of season, which prepared me well for this final," said Nalbandian.