'Happy Like A Kid', Tsonga Savours Marseille Win

Herbert sweeps past sixth seed Nishikori

Three-time champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from the brink against big-serving Feliciano Lopez on Tuesday at the Open 13 Provence to claim his long-awaited first ATP Tour victory since 2019.

The 35-year-old Frenchman was hoping home soil would help bring back the spark after struggling to bounce back from injuries, including left knee surgery. He had to go about things the hard way, recovering from a set down and weathering 13 blistering aces from Lopez on his way to a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

“This is probably one of the best victories of my career, because it was tough for me to play tennis. I had so much pain for so many months,” Tsonga said in an on-court interview. “Today, I won one match. That was one of my goals for these few weeks… I’m happy like a kid.”

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Tsonga owned a 5-0 lead over 39-year-old Lopez in their ATP Head2Head record, but the big-serving Spaniard was the first to take control in their first meeting since 2012. Two breaks of serve bracketed the opening set as Lopez took advantage of an error-strewn stretch from Tsonga.

The Frenchman converted his only break opportunity of the second set to take an early lead, and raised his level to hold serve under the lefty’s relentless pressure. Tsonga went toe-to-toe with Lopez on serve, and fired 16 of his 19 aces across the final two sets. He dodged a third-set tie-break after taking a 6-5 lead, and fired his final ace of the day to seal the victory after two hours and eight minutes.

“Both of us, we are almost 80 years old together,” Tsonga joked. “I’ve known him for a long time and I have a lot of good memories with Feli… I’m really pleased that I won against him. For me it’s a good victory; he plays well indoors, he’s a lefty, he’s tall. I’m just happy today.”

Tsonga will face fourth-seeded countryman Ugo Humbert in the second round.

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Also in action, Pierre-Hugues Herbert dominated on serve and at the net to beat sixth-seeded Japanese star Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4.

“I knew I would need to be aggressive from the start, as I knew Kei would be better than me from the baseline,” said Herbert. “I cannot complain about anything today and I stuck to my game plan from the beginning to the end. I am very happy with the win. I kept moving forwards and did let him play.”

Herbert beat his first seeded player at an ATP tournament since overcoming fifth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Montpellier second round in 2020. The 29-year-old completed his second victory of the year with his 11th ace, having won 25 of 30 first-service points in the 70-minute encounter.

Herbert will next face Cameron Norrie of Great Britain or fellow Frenchman Constant Lestienne

Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden recovered from a set and break deficit to beat Benjamin Bonzi of France 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 in two hours and 27 minutes. Wild card Bonzi served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Ebden will next challenge Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round.

American Mackenzie McDonald will play 2018 champion and third-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov after coming through a 7-6(2), 7-6(1) victory over Italian Stefano Travaglia, last month’s Great Ocean Road Open finalist (l. to Sinner).

Top Seeds Advance In Doubles
Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski, the top seeds in the doubles draw, defeated McDonald and Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals. The British brothers are pursuing their first title together since Budapest in 2019.