Federer holds off Tsonga in opener

DEFENDING champion Roger Federer kicked off the singles action at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London with a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The fourth seed cruised through the opening set at the O2 Arena yesterday, but Tsonga hit back in the second and the result looked in doubt until the Swiss star edged a tight decider.

Tsonga, playing at the O2 for the first time, drew inspiration from his Wimbledon victory over Federer this summer.

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The world No 4 did not take long to move ahead yesterday, breaking in the fourth game following a miss from Tsonga.

Another break to love gave Federer the first set in 21 minutes with both men taking their time to adjust to the relatively slow pace of the court.

Tsonga took advantage of a series of Federer errors in the third game of the second set to break. That gave him the lift he needed and his play improved.

His fearsome forehand was becoming a real feature of the match and he forced another break to move 5-2 ahead, before clinching the set when Federer netted a backhand. The 16-time grand slam champion had a fight on his hands having never won a deciding set against Tsonga.

Rafael Nadal, in action later against Mardy Fish, arrived for a glimpse of the action just as Tsonga cracked.

An easy volley into the net was followed by a double-fault. Federer then hit a winner down the line and had three match points, taking the second with a backhand.

Federer said: “It’s very hard to get into any sort of rhythm against him because he’s a very good one-two puncher which he proved against me at Wimbledon.”

Tsonga bemoaned his luck on the final point when Federer’s mis-hit return forced him into a weak reply.

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“On the match point, he returned with the frame. It is tennis. Sometimes it can go really quick” he said.