Photo credit: © Reem AbulleilJo-Wilfried Tsonga believes he can end his wait for a Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open after beating his good friend and fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 to kick off his season with a smashing title victory at the Qatar Open.
Tsonga, who made the finals of the World Tour Finals in London and in the Paris Masters at the end of last season, is the first Frenchman to make three straight finals on Tour since Cedric Pioline did so in 1993.
The 26-year-old remains in search of a maiden Grand Slam trophy with his best showing coming in Australia when he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2008 - a fact he says helps believe he can fulfil his Major dream.
Tsonga said: “I feel like I’m a very dangerous player on a speed surface, on a hard surface or grass. So I’m sure I can. I have reached the final already, so maybe I can win.
“It’s really good for me because I played a lot of matches. I played well. I will leave this tournament, with a lot of confidence, and it’s good for me for the next tournament. At the beginning of the match it was a bit difficult because he broke me very early. It was tough. But in my head everything was right. I said, Okay, I’m one break down, but I will continue to play my game. I will make him run a lot.
“I think it was the good solution because then, after that, he was maybe a bit tired of that. After that, I was better than him. I was all the time in the court making him run. That's why maybe I won today.”
Monfils broke Tsonga in the very first game of the match but one point into the second game, play was suspended due to the unusual heavy fog that hit the Qatari capital a short while before the final which caused the court to be dangerously slippery for the players.
The French pair returned to the court almost half an hour later as play resumed and Monfils quickly raced to a 5-3 lead and was serving for the first set. But in a bizarre turnaround of events, Tsonga rallied to win four straight games to snatch the first set 7-5.
The fog thickened and descended more on the courts but the action still resumed in the second set with Tsonga picking up where he left off, holding to love.
The set remained on serve but the fourth game saw Tsonga slip and take a bad fall and officials were instantly called onto the court again to assess how wet it was and to wipe off the ‘Qatar’ letters on the ground, where the Le Mans man had fell.
The action continued but the following game saw more tumbles from both players but it was more due to them lunging for difficult balls, than because of the fog.
The significant moment came at game six when Tsonga hit a monstrous forehand to get a look at a break point and he went on to break immediately thanks to an unforced error from Monfils, who was now 4-2 down.
Tsonga had no trouble holding on to that break as his opponent continued to rack up the unforced errors and the No3 seed closed out the match when Monfils his 27th error of the night, to head to Melbourne with a well-deserved title under his belt.
Monfils said he was happy with his tournament, after losing his second final in Doha, but he admitted he was less aggressive than in his previous matches.
The world No16 said: “I think the conditions were a bit tough, but it was for both of us. So then I think today I was maybe less powerful than I was during this week, because I think also Jo play different. He was playing a bit soft and then change the rhythm, like a bit hard and mix it up with some slice.”