Tsonga's Great Escape
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looked finished.
The 15th seed was down 2-5 in the fifth set against Denis Shapovalov, and the #NextGenATP Canadian had all the momentum, having broken Tsonga in the second game of the final set.
But from out of nowhere, Tsonga sprinted to life, coming back from 30/30, 2-5 to win the final five games of the match and advance to the third round of the Australian Open 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5.
“I had to fight a lot and make him finish the match. He never did, so it's good for me,” Tsonga said. “But the most important for me, is to fight, give my best on court until the last point. That's what I did today. I think he deserved to win also today, but I was also courageous and I did my job at the end. I played well. I think I deserve it, too.”
It's the 10th time Tsonga has reached the third round in Melbourne, and he kept alive his hopes of making his second title match at the season's first Grand Slam. Tsonga advanced to the Australian Open final in 2008 (l. to Djokovic), his best Grand Slam showing.
The French veteran had never lost in the second round in Melbourne, but Shapovalov had beaten him the last time they had played, during the second round of the 2017 US Open.
And the 18-year-old Canadian had the match on his racquet. But serving at 5-3, Shapovalov landed only one first serve, and Tsonga pounced on Shapovalov's second offerings, breaking to 15. Tsonga served out the match to love before leaping around Margaret Court Arena in celebration.
“There's always nerves in a tennis match. Like I said, it's a sport. I wasn't thinking about it much. Just didn't play a good game on my serve. Then he picked up his level. Nothing too bad there. I'm just going to learn from it and keep going,” Shapovalov said.
Tsonga improved to 16-10 in five-set matches; Shapovalov fell to 1-1. “It's not really something you can train for,” Shapovalov said of five-set matches. “In practice, it's always different. I think it's just experience. You have to go through it. You have to play these matches. Like today, Jo has so much experience playing these matches, I don't have that much, that could have been the difference. He picked up his game when he needed to.”
The 32-year-old Tsonga will next face 17th seed Nick Kyrgios, who overcame Serbia's Viktor Troicki in straight sets.
Elsewhere, Kyle Edmund reached the third round for the first time with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
"I knew going into this match, physically I was good, the way I'm hitting the ball," said Edmund, who now faces Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. "If he was going to beat me today, I knew I was going to put up a good fight. Today was a good, professional performance. I did what I needed to do."