Tsonga lights up Paris to reach last eight, Cornet out

Sun May 31, 2015 3:33pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga illuminated a gray day in Paris with a thrilling win over Tomas Berdych to reach the French Open quarter-finals on Sunday but Maria's Sharapova's title defense was put on hold by the rain.

Roger Federer, the 2009 men's champion, was another player kept waiting by the weather and although the Swiss did get on court, he walked off in the gathering gloom unsure about his last eight prospects, locked at one-set all with Gael Monfils.

After home favorite Alize Cornet's run petered out in a bitter 6-2 7-6(9) defeat by Ukraine's 19th seed Elina Svitolina in a match held up for three hours by the rain, home eyes turned to Tsonga on Court Philippe Chatrier.

All seemed to be going well when the local favorite led by two sets against bad-tempered Czech fourth seed Berdych, who seemed unhappy to be playing in on-and-off drizzle, but when he served for the match at 5-4 in the third the dampness seemed to get into his circuitry and he fluffed his chance.

Berdych pounced to take the third set on a tiebreak and, as French cheers from fans huddled under colorful umbrellas in the stands turned to near silence, the Czech moved a break ahead in the fourth and looked favorite to go on and win.

Out of nowhere, however, the spring returned to Tsonga's step and with an onslaught of heavy hitting he reeled off five games in a row to win 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3.

The injury-plagued Tsonga sealed victory when Berdych wafted a backhand long and the Frenchman danced for joy before conducting the crowd's "Oles" with his towel.

It was only the third time in nine meetings that 30-year-old Tsonga, seeded 14, had beaten Berdych and his reward is a quarter-final against Japan's Kei Nishikori.   Continued...

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France celebrates after beating Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their men's singles match at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol