Tsonga Rallies Against Federer, Faces Monfils Next

Frenchman to reach Monte-Carlo final for first time since 2000

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday as he battled to upset Roger Federer 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The eighth-seeded Tsonga held his nerve to edge Federer in just over two hours, claiming his sixth win in 17 meetings with the Swiss.

"It's always special to win against Federer," said Tsonga. "I'm happy that I won. All victories are good to take. The one yesterday was very important, and today too. Again, I'm in the semis. I'm happy that I'm still in the tournament and I have a chance to go to the final for the first time."

Playing this week in his first tournament since the Australian Open, Federer made a strong start to the match, breaking Tsonga three times to wrap up the opener. But the Swiss could not keep up his momentum, immediately dropping serve to open the second set. Trailing 1-4, Federer recouped one of the breaks, but Tsonga broke again in the seventh game before levelling the match.

The third set was a tight affair, with neither player creating a break point until the 11th game, when Tsonga broke Federer to 15 before serving out a memorable victory on Court Ranier III.

"I was expecting a difficult match, and that is exactly what happened," said Tsonga. "He was very reactive, he was running well. From the start, I thought he was very fast. But I was able to turn it around. He dropped his level a little bit and I was able to come back into the match and end up winning. It's good for me."

The 30-year-old Tsonga also reached the final four at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in 2013, falling to Rafael Nadal. He claimed his 39th Top 10 win (39-73 record) and first in Monte-Carlo after going 0-3 in the past three years.

Federer was making his comeback in Monte-Carlo after undergoing arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals. His scheduled comeback in Miami was delayed due to illness.

The Basel native was contesting his eighth quarter-final in 13 visits to Monte-Carlo and is a four-time runner-up at the third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the year.

Tsonga will face countryman Gael Monfils on Saturday for a place in his first tour-level clay-court final, after Monfils ended the run of lucky loser Marcel Granollers with a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Tsonga leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 4-2. 

"Jo has a game that I have trouble with," said Monfils. "I will need to find a solution to push him back and to try to stop him dominating the rallies...If I have a slight advantage in this match, it's because I know what he's going to do. He's going to play aggressively."

The 29-year-old Monfils is through to his fifth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final and first since reaching the final four at the Monte-Carlo Country Club last year, when he fell to Tomas Berdych. He is bidding to reach his third Masters 1000 final after runner-up showings in Paris in 2009 (l. to Djokovic) and 2010 (l. to Soderling).

The right-hander overturned a 1-3 record against Granollers, beating the Spaniard for the first time in seven years as he claimed victory in 74 minutes. Monfils converted four of his five break points and won 70 per cent of his service points.

World No. 67 Granollers had seized his opportunity after taking the place of the injured David Ferrer in the main draw. The Spaniard, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Tuesday, battled past Alexander Zverev in the second round before upsetting David Goffin to reach the quarter-finals. He dropped to a 6-9 mark on the season.

Monfils' consistent start to 2016 continues. The Frenchman is bidding to reach his second final of the season after finishing runner-up in Rotterdam (l. to Klizan). He also reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open (l. to Raonic) and at the Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells (l. to Raonic) and Miami (l. to Nishikori).

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