PARIS (Reuters) - Stan Wawrinka took on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 15,000 of his most passionate fans and silenced them all to reach the French Open final for the first time with a 6-3 6-7(1) 7-6(3) 6-4 victory on Friday.
Tsonga’s hopes of becoming the first Frenchman to win the title since Yannick Noah in 1983 melted away on the hottest day of the championships -- with the mercury hitting 33 degrees Celsius -- as Wawrinka won the points that mattered.
The Swiss eighth seed lived dangerously throughout, saving 16 of the 17 break points he faced during the grueling three hour 46 minute contest, and was a mightily relieved man when he fired down an unreturnable serve to end the semi-final.
His triumph was greeted with loud boos from sections of the crowd but Wawrinka cared little about being cast as the villain on a day when he reached the second grand slam final of his career.
“It was a big battle, it could have gone either way,” said the 2014 Australian Open champion who will face either Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray in Sunday’s final. “It went down to two or three points. He had opportunities to break me in the third set. As is usual against Jo, it’s been a very tough match. It was tough but I‘m happy I got through.”
Wawrinka should have guessed the kind of day he was in for when he faced three break points in the opening game of the semi -- saving them all much to the despair of Tsonga and his roaring cheering squad.
Tsonga was soon ruing all those wasted opportunities as he found himself a set and a break down at 4-3 in the second set.
Trying to figure out where he was going wrong, Tsonga sat down and spent the entire changeover with his eyes closed in deep meditation while Wawrinka tried to cool himself down with an iced collar and by pouring bottles of water over his head.
The moved paid off for Tsonga as he soon had the roaring crowd on their feet when he broke to level at 4-4.
The 30-year-old Frenchman went on to play an almost perfect tiebreaker, taking it 7-1 with an unreturnable serve.
Wawrinka, who squandered seven of eight breakpoints he earned during the second set, was not about to suffer another letdown and went toe-to-toe with Tsonga in the third before going in for the kill in the fourth.
He now hopes to join the likes of Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl in completing the boys’-Musketeers’ Cup double at Roland Garros.
“There are a lot of emotions playing another grand slam final, especially here at Roland Garros where I won the juniors title,” he said.
Editing by Ed Osmond