(February 21, 2013) -- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga supplied the fireworks, Gilles Simon put out the lights.
6th-seeded Gilles Simon notched a big 6-4, 6-3 win over Juan Martin del Potro on Friday, sending the defending champion and last week's winner in Rotterdam packing just when when whispers of his invicibility were starting to rise in volume. Del Potro had won 26 of his last 30 indoor matches, and Simon played a brilliant match to beat him.
But the biggest fireworks came earlier in the day, when third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled a houdini act against Bernard Tomic to keep his hopes for a second career Marseille title alive.
Tsonga thrilled the French crowd with a tightrope-walk in the third set of his highly entertaining scuffle with 20-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic, saving five match points and finally closing out the upset-minded Aussie 12-10 in the third-set tiebreaker on his second match point.
Tomic broke Tsonga in the first set and saved all four break points he faced to take the early lead, but the Australian would not see another break point on the day.
"I felt I was playing better than him, but there were some holes in my game," said Tsonga after his match against the world number 46.
"I am happy to get through because it was very, very tense."
Tomic nearly pulled off the upset, which would have been his third career top ten win, when he saved three break points in the third set to force a tiebreaker, then moved ahead 6-4. But from there Tomic became tentative, and Tsonga, perhaps having learned from watching Novak Djokovic save four match points against him last year at the French Open, played bold, decisive tennis to stay alive in the match.
Finally, the Frenchman got things turned around, and after Tomic saved one match point, Tsonga finally closed out the two hour and five-minute affair on his serve, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(10).
Simon took a much less circuitous route to victory, as he broke serve on two of his four opportunities and dispatched an uninspired Del Potro. Simon saved all three break points he faced against the second seed, and after he hit two brilliant forehand passes in succession to secure a break to move ahead 3-1 in the final set, the World No. 14 comfortably closed out his third career win in six contests against the Argentine.
In another hotly contested battle, top-seeded Tomas Berdych edged past Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-3 thanks to a well-timed service break in the penultimate game.
Janowicz didn't sniff a break point all match, but his 16 aces and 79 percent first serve percentage kept him in the match until the bitter end. "Definitely, it's the missiles," said Berdych of the 22-year-old's booming serve. "In the tiebreak he played extremely well, he deserved to win that. It was really about the small chances that I was waiting for."
Berdych got his chance when Janowicz missed a first serve on break point while serving at 3-4 in the decider. He took control of the point and forced the error to give himself a chance to serve for the match.
Despite the win, Berdych came away impressed with Janowicz after their first career meeting. "Thank god there are not more players like this. But this is nice about tennis, you can find so many different players with so many different styles, and he is one of them. He's going to be always very dangerous and always a very difficult opponent, but if you are going to be solid and very focused for every single point then there is a chance to make it."
Berdych will face the week's biggest surprise, qualifier Dmitry Tursunov, who defeated Gilles Miller in three sets.
(Photo Credit: Eurosport)