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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past David Goffin, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, in the Rotterdam final to win his 13th career title.

Photo credit: Henk Koster/ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament

Another errant forehand catapulted from his Babolat racquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga banged his palm off the strings in admonishment.

Tsonga battled early unruly form and a sharp David Goffin for a set and a half of frustration.

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Then the Frenchman reset and dropped the hammer.

Tuning up his forehand with aggression, Tsonga tore through eight of the last nine games dismissing Goffin, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, to capture his 13th career title in Rotterdam.  

It is Tsonga’s first ATP title in 18 months and his first 500-Series championship since the 2009 Tokyo (when Tsonga beat Juan Martin del Potro to win the 2011 Vienna it was still a 250-level event). The victory caps a week in which Tsonga earned his 400th career win and will rise to No. 11 in the new ATP rankings.

The importance of the occasion wasn’t lost on the 31-year-old veteran, who collected his first title since the 2015 Metz.

“I want to thank David for a great fight,” Tsonga said afterward. “David is not only a very good player, but a very good human being.

“Today I’m just really happy I won. Not every day like this. I will try to enjoy it.”

Tsonga hit 18 of his 37 winners off that crackling topspin forehand and turned the match around hammering some vicious forehand returns off Goffin's second serve.

Contesting his first final in Rotterdam a week after bowing to Grigor Dimitrov in the Sofia championship match, Goffin suffered his fifth straight finals defeat.

Still, his run to the title match was historic: Goffin will become the first Belgian man to crack the ATP Top 10 when the new rankings are released tomorrow.

Nerves were evident at the outset as both men faced three break points in their opening service games.

Tsonga dug out of a love-40 deficit holding to open before Goffin denied three break points in the second game.

Reading the Tsonga serve well and taking diagonal steps to cut off returns, Goffin gained triple break point again. Tsonga saved the first two, but Goffin used his court craft to convert the third. Hitting behind the man from Le Mans, Goffin followed a forehand forward and knocked off a high volley breaking for 2-1.

The serve is a Tsonga signature stroke—he had not dropped serve in tournament wins over Gilles Muller, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych—but he looked baffled by the depth and direction of Goffin’s returns.

Bolting a backhand pass down the line, Goffin break for the second time snatching a 4-1 lead after 28 minutes.

Trying to make a match of it, Tsonga got one of the breaks back when Goffin floated a forehand long. Goffin’s accuracy and skill wrong-footing the Frenchman were keys to the opening set.

Moving through his service games with growing confidence, Goffin converted his second set point taking the 44-minute opener.

Aiming to gunk up the gears of Goffin’s precision ground game, Tsonga tried playing no-pace, one-handed slice backhands but wasn’t controlling his weaker wing consistently. Goffin held at 15 for 2-all.

The pair traded love holds in the fifth and sixth games. Goffin won 12 of his first 14 points on serve in the second set.

Holding for 4-3, Tsonga began showing a bounce in his step and a willingness to play grip-and-rip with his forehand. Jolting a forehand winner down the line, he reached 15-30 in the eighth game but sailed a mid-court forehand that would have given him break point. Goffin exploited three errors leveling, 4-4.

A flurry of forehands, including a crackling forehand return down the line, help Tsonga batter a pair of set points. Goffin saved the first before Tsonga ripped a pair of forehands drawing the mid-court ball he wanted. But he overhit the kill shot. On his third set point, Tsonga shanked a crosscourt forehand.

Goffin found the top of the net on a backhand drop shot to face a fourth set point. Lining up yet another forehand, Tsonga flattened it into the top of the tape, the ball popped up in the air and settled on his side of the net.

A brilliant forehand winner down the line gave Tsonga a fifth set point. Stepping in, he lasered a forehand down the line from nearly the same spot leveling the match after 86 minutes.

Cumulative pressure from Tsonga’s stinging forehand returns helped create the break. Aiming for his opponent’s backhand, Goffin double faulted to face a second break point. He netted a backhand down the line gifting the break and a 2-0 lead to Tsonga.

Empowered, Tsonga slammed through a love hold extending his lead to 3-0. Rifling a running forehand winner crosscourt for another break point, Tsonga clubbed two more forehands breaking for 4-0.

Racing up quickly to a short ball, Tsonga hammered a diagonal forehand capping a one hour, 55-minute victory for his first ATP title in 18 months.


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