There have been a number of thrilling upsets and comeback victories during the first week at the US Open, but there are many other triumphs that have raised thousands of fans in Flushing to their feet that may not have made the front page headlines.
Sunday featured no less than four Frenchmen in eight matches, and No. 7 and fan favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga demonstrates why the French remain a dangerous force in men’s tennis with eight players in the ATP Top 50.
His 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 defeat on Sunday of fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau marks three perfect straight-set victories in all of his three matches thus far in the tournament as he enters the round of 16. His track record also includes wins over Chase Buchanan 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 and Jarkko Nieminen 7-5, 7-6, 6-4.
Tsonga, 24, first won the hearts of fans during his unbelievable run at the 2008 Australian Open, when unseeded, he knocked out top seed players including Andy Murray, compatriot Richard Gasquet, and Rafael Nadal to reach the finals, where he finally fell to Novak Djokovic. Tennis fans in Melbourne and around the world rooted for the underdog hero and Tsonga became a household name.
No. 43 Benneteau, who also did good to make it to the third round with an impressive upset over No. 30 Viktor Troicki, drew Tsonga to a tiebreak in the first set, but simply couldn’t keep up with the bulldozer that is Tsonga.
On Sunday, as in his other appearances this week, Tsonga had the uncanny ability to appear stronger and more energetic as the match wore on. Big serves and big forehands from the big guy delivered a show that kept the fans on his side even as Benneteau threw out an arsenal of entertaining shots to keep Tsonga busy.
Tsonga was not in top fitness at last year’s US Open, but is looking physically strong now.
“I feel better. I’m in a good shape. Last year I played…after surgery, so was not really in a good shape. So this year I’m good, and this is the difference,” he said post-match.
In the end Tsonga’s top form helped him slam in twice as many winners as his opponent (42 to Benneteau’s 21), clock the fastest serve (134 mph), and win an impressive 84% of his first serves.
Tsonga takes his exciting athleticism into the fourth round, where he'll face Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.