ATP Monte Carlo: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga outclasses Lucas Pouille, sets up quarterfinal with Roger Federer

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was too strong for his fellow country man Lucas Pouille, as he defeated the wildcard in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in 1 hour and 34 minutes at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

Fast start from the more experienced Frenchman

In the first meeting between the French compatriots, Tsonga put the wildcard Pouille under pressure from the start, winning the opening three points of the match to bring up three break points. Despite the world number 82 saving the first, the world number nine made sure he converted on the second. Pouille, who resides in Dubai, had the chance to break straight back but failed to capitalize on the opportunity and despite pushing Tsonga back to deuce three times he could not prevent going down to trail 2-0.

In the following game the wildcard was able to get on the score board and manage to hold his serve once again before coming under pressure in the seventh game. At 15-30 Pouille was able to go toe to toe with Tsonga before closing out the point at the net with an irretrievable volley, giving him the confidence to go on to hold.

The wildcard misses his opportunity

On Tsonga’s serve the world number 82 opened up a window of opportunity at 0-30 after his attempted pass flicked off of the top of the net catching the world number nine off guard. The wildcard could not capitalize on his good fortune as his compatriot responded with a couple of huge forward winners. Pouille was able to find a couple of forehand winners of his own to push the server back to deuce, but Tsonga held, moving him just one game away from the first set.

The wildcard did exceptionally well to recover from 15-30 as Tsonga pushed for a break of serve. The world number 82 would not cave in, instead forcing the world number nine to serve for the set. Pouille put away a confident overhead to earn himself two break back points, but once again Tsonga remained defiant, dictating the points with his forehand and drawing the errors from his younger opponent. After another huge serve followed by a forehand Tsonga wrapped up the first set 6-4.

Today was a case of what might have been for the French wildcard. Photo: Getty Images
Today was a case of what might have been for the French wildcard. Photo: Getty Images

Tsonga strives to make the key breakthrough

After a series of service holds from both players at the beginning of the second set it was Tsonga who created the first opportunity to take control of the match after some quick hands at the net brought him a break point chance. Pouille resisted the pressure as the world number nine struggled to convert on the break point opportunities, allowing the wild card to hold for a 4-3 lead.

Tsonga looked to try again to make the definitive breakthrough in the ninth game. A double fault from Pouille put himself in trouble down 0-30, before Tsonga hit a stunning overhead lob with a one handed backhand while on the run to bring up two break points. The wildcard saved the first with a serve and volley put away, before his French compatriot went wide with a second serve return to squander the second.

A third break point came his way, with Tsonga’s return originally being called wide. The umpire came down from his chair and deemed the ball to be in, but he could not take advantage of the replay, with Pouille hitting a brilliant forehand down the line winner. Tsonga fired a forehand long on a fourth opportunity and then denied Pouille a chance to hold at game point. The world number nine finally secured the breakthrough after forcing the wildcard to go long in a game which lasted nearly nine minutes.

With Tsonga serving for the match, the wildcard took the opening point, but the top 10 player responded with two aces to bring up two match points. The Frenchman only needed one to secure a straight sets victory 6-4, 6-4. A comprehensive victory, but he will need to improve on his break points conversion rate if he is to go all the way in Monte Carlo.

Nonetheless, the world number nine boasted some impressive statistics, winning 85% of points behind his first serve and saving all of the break points he faced. Tsonga advances to the quarterfinals on Friday, where he will meet the third seed Roger Federer, who eased past Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-4 earlier on Thursday.