Tsonga taken to a fifth set for first time in his career

JO-WILFRIED Tsonga celebrated his first five-set match with a hard-earned win over Nicolas Almagro at the Australian Open to set up a showdown with Novak Djokovic, the man who beat him for the 2008 title.

The 24-year-old Frenchman had managed to avoid the full distance in 37 previous grand slam matches and six Davis Cup hit-outs, but when finally pressed, passed the fourth round test 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7, 9-7 in three-and-a-half hours.

"It was great to win in five sets, first time for me... when you win your first five-set match, you're happy," said Tsonga, the No 10 seed.

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While Tsonga was delighted with the win over 26th-seeded Almagro, a grizzled veteran by comparison with 11 five-set matches to his name, he could well have saved himself the effort. After wrapping up the first two sets with a break in each, Tsonga threw away the third with a double fault after conceding his first break point when trailing 5-4.

He then sprayed two unforced errors to concede a tiebreaker in the fourth to give Almagro hope of pulling off a famous win.

The fifth proceeded as the fourth had done, both players slogging out long rallies but unable to break the other's serve, before Almagro was the first to blink when serving to stay in the match at 8-7.

Tsonga took a chance with a rush to the net and was rewarded with a match point, then smacked a forehand winner to seal it.

Since being defeated by world No 3 Djokovic in four sets in the 2008 final, the Frenchman has won four of their last five matches. But he was beaten in straight sets in their most recent clash, in the Miami quarter-finals last year.

Djokovic set up a Melbourne re-match with the Frenchman after a crushing 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 win over Lukasz Kubot.