Singles Main Draw
By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has a flair for the dramatic, and that was the case again on Tuesday night at the Winston-Salem Open.
The 30-year-old Frenchman started slowly, then roared back for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Denis Istomin in the featured evening match on Stadium Court.
Tsonga had to stave off a break point trailing 3-4 in the second set, but he responded, eventually won a 16-point game to hold serve, and then went on to break Istomin four straight times to close out the second set and take charge of the third.
Following the match, he said he was simply happy to be through to the third round, where he will face American Steve Johnson in the featured evening match on Stadium Court Wednesday night.
“These are new conditions for me, and the first match is always tough, so I am happy with the win,” Tsonga said. “You know, when I play tournaments, I play better and better. It’s always been this way with me. I never played really well in the first game, but I know I will play better and better. I will get used to this surface and I will play better.”
Tsonga is the No. 3 seed here, and came into the WSO at No. 19 in the current ATP World Tour rankings.
Istomin, currently ranked No. 69 but a champion at Nottingham earlier this summer, said that Tsonga simply raised his level of play late in the match.
“I did nothing wrong,” Istomin said. “He just was better. I took my chance in the first but then he just relaxed and he just came back and beat me.”
Tsonga said he thought he wore Istomin down late in the match.
“I just tried to be a little more consistent and tried to put the ball in the court,” Tsonga said. “I feel better the longer the third set went. I played better, but I think also he didn’t play as well as the first set, and there was the possibility for me to be a little more in the court.”
Tsonga is looking for his 12th career ATP World Tour title this week, and his first of 2015.
He was clearly the crowd favorite on Tuesday night, and that seemed to spur him on as well.
“I don’t know what I did but all over the world I’ve always been welcomed and here is not an exception,” Tsonga said. “I’m of course really pleased, really proud, because it means the people consider me a lot and it’s great for me.”
Interestingly, he said he thought Johnson would be the crowd favorite when the two meet on Wednesday night.
“It’s a good player,” Tsonga said. “I’ve never played against him so we don’t know each other. I know he was able to beat some really good guys, so he’s going to be dangerous for sure. He’s going to play with his home crowd and it’s going to be tough for me to beat him. But I will fight like always and try to find a way to go through this one, too.”
In other evening matches, Malek Jaziri beat fourth-seeded Viktor Troicki 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat 14th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 2-6, 7-5; Pablo Carreno Busta beat 10th-seeded Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4; and Simone Bolelli beat seventh-seeded Sam Querrey 7-6 (7). 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9). Overall, eight seeded players fell at the Winston-Salem Open on Tuesday.