Madrid: Tsonga d. Harrison

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 /by

JoRRTiebreak points are so precious that players have danced around moral margins to protect them, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga showed sportsmanship in overruling a call against himself in a breaker today. Unfortunately for Ryan Harrison, the fourth seed's philanthropic bent did not extend to his service games. Tsonga was downright stingy on serve in powering past Harrison, 6-2, 7-6 (4), to reach the third round of the Madrid Masters.

Harrison slipped on a slick patch of blue clay while hitting a running backhand winner down the line to hold in the opening game, prompting chair umpire Carlos Bernardes to summon the grounds crew to drag the area behind the baseline. Both players spent some time casting some accusatory glances down at the offending indigo surface, like harried commuters staring at a crack in the sidewalk that tripped them into stumbles. Tsonga found his footing—and range—faster, jack-hammering an inside-out forehand winner to break for 2-1.

The explosive Frenchman beat Harrison last month on red clay in Davis Cup, and was overwhelming on serve in the opening set, winning 15 of 17 points played on his first serve. Harrison struggled to control the high ball to his backhand, a vulnerability Tsonga repeatedly probed with his kick serve on the ad side and vicious inside-out forehand. That such shot stretched the lead to 3-1. When Harrison hit a double fault off the tape and slapped a routine forehand into net to hand Tsonga a break and 5-2 lead, he slammed his Babolat racquet to the court in disgust, then tried to pick up the pieces after a 26-minute first set.

The stick bit the dust again, this time suffering a distorted head, after Harrison fell into a triple break point hole in the third game of the second set. Harrison doesn't quite have Tsonga's swagger, but showed scrappiness in digging out with successive aces to hold for 2-1. But every time Harrison had a moment, Tsonga answered immediately to conduct the emotional tempo. He held at love in three of his first four service games of the second set, and navigated through his first test at 4-5, 30-all. Typically a solid volleyer, Harrison butchered a backhand volley wide, as Tsonga held at 30 and eventually forced the breaker.

The turning point came when Harrison hit a drop shot that Tsonga seemed to get on the second bounce, but Bernardes awarded the point and 4-1 lead to Tsonga. The Frenchman conceded the not-up and point to Harrison, prompting appreciative applause from the fans for the sporting gesture. Tsonga netted a forehand to fall to 3-3, but then turned it up with a pair of flying forehand winners. Harrison made a mess of another volley to hand Tsonga match point. Tsonga closed it out in 80 minutes and will face his doubles partner, Alexandr Dolgopolov, next.

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