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Tsonga Rallies to Defeat Berdych in Marseille
By Chris Oddo
(February 24, 2013) --
One of the talking points of the 2013 Open 13 final in Marseille was the fact that
was bidding to become the first ATP player to win a title after saving match points earlier in the tournament.
saved five match points
in his thrilling victory over
in the quarterfinals.
On Sunday, he saved one more, just for good measure.
Tsonga capped an exhilarating comeback to defeat an in-form
, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 on Sunday, earning his tenth career title in the process.
It looked to be Berdych’s day from the beginning, as the Czech took a one-set lead behind near-perfect serving that got even better as the match progressed.
In the second set, Berdych made 78 percent of his first serves and only lost four points on serve.
But Tsonga, who scratched and clawed to stay alive in front of a partisan crowd in Marseille, saved all three break points he faced and hammered ten of his seventeen aces in the set to keep pace with Berdych.
In the tiebreaker, after stepping out to a 4-1 lead, it looked as if the curtains might be closing on Tsonga's Marseille act. Berdych won five of the next six points and as Tsonga took the balls to serve he was facing match points for the second time in three matches.
He responded, yet again. After back-to-back aces that elicited a rowdy roar of approval from the French faithful, Tsonga took the set on the next point when Berdych steered a backhand down the line into the tramlines.
It was a breath of new life for Tsonga, one that he would make the most of, as he took the bull by the horns in the decider, securing the early break in the third game and keeping up his lights-out serving all the way until the finish.
Tsonga won seventeen of twenty first-serve points in the decider, and he didn’t face a break point. When Berdych’s forehand was dumped into the net on match point, it was time for that charismatic Tsonga smile, and a handshake with Berdych, who congratulated the Frenchman for a job well done.
“It just happens sometimes like that,” said a disappointed Berdych afterwards. “Jo just finished it well.”
Berdych can be consoled by the fact that he did very little wrong against Tsonga. He played decisive tennis throughout—it simply wasn’t enough to quell the vein of magical tennis that Tsonga was tapping on this day.
“I hate losing, and especially the final,” Berdych added, admitting that sometimes in tennis you can’t control the outcome no matter how well you play. “That’s how it is. We play with a round ball and that’s the reason.”
Tsonga’s win ends a personal three-match losing streak against Berdych, and marks his second career Marseille title.
Berdych and Tsonga will both head to Dubai, where they are slated to meet in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week.
(Photo Credit: AP)
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