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Tsonga Battles Through; Simon Makes Strong Start

Bangkok, Thailand

Gilles Simon© Getty ImagesNo. 2 seed Gilles Simon is 5-2 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals.

Defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was taken the distance by Ernests Gulbis before edging the Latvian 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 7-6(2) Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the PTT Thailand Open, the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Bangkok.

The top seed created the lone break point of the match in the first set, but could not convert. In total, 43 aces were struck, 20 from Tsonga, with both men dominating on serve by winning 75 per cent of points behind their deliveries in the two-hour, 12-minute battle. Tsonga won just one point more than Gulbis, handing the 21 year old to his sixth defeat by a Top 10 player this season.

The No. 7-ranked Tsonga captured his maiden ATP World Tour title in Bangkok last year with victory over Novak Djokovic, avenging the defeat he had suffered to the Serb in the final of the Australian Open at the start of the 2008 season.

The 24 year old returns to Bangkok this year in a bid to win his third ATP World Tour title of the season and strengthen his bid to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Tsonga titled twice in February on separate continents at the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg (d. Chardy) and the Open 13 in Marseille (d. Djokovic, Llodra).

Tsonga next will face Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli, who ended Marat Safin’s campaign with a 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over the Russian. Chiudinelli saved all three break points he saved, while converting one of two he created, to oust the former World No. 1 after 88 minutes. Safin, who intends to retire at the end of the 2009 ATP World Tour season, reached the semi-finals in Bangkok in 2004 (l. to Roddick) and ’06 (l. to Blake).

Chiudinelli, currently a career-high No. 116 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings after a third-round showing at the US Open (l. to Davydenko), is through to his first ATP World Tour quarter-final.

ATP World Tour No. 10 Gilles Simon made a strong start to his debut campaign in Bangkok by cruising past American Kevin Kim 6-2, 6-2. After receiving a bye through the first round, the Frenchman will contest his sixth tour-level quarter-final or better of the season. The 24 year old, whose best results this season have been semi-final showings at the Open 13 (l. to Llodra) and the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships (l. to Djokovic) and a quarter-final effort at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal), is looking to reach his first ATP World Tour final since October 2008, when he finished runner-up at the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open (d. No. 1 Nadal, l. to Murray).

In the pair’s first meeting, and playing his first match since retiring against Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round of the US Open last month, Simon produced a confident display to dismiss the No. 105-ranked Kim in 61 minutes. The Nice native struck 11 aces and converted four of the seven break points he created, while saving both break point threats he faced on serve. It marked Simon’s 33rd tour-level win of the season (33-24 record) and Kim’s 12th career loss to a Top 10 player (0-12 mark).

In the quarter-finals, Simon will meet Russian Evgeny Korolev, who clipped American Robby Ginepri 6-1, 6-1.

American eighth seed John Isner defeated German Mischa Zverev 7-6(5), 6-4 in 83 minutes to improve to a 25-12 match record on the season and secure his place in a sixth ATP World Tour quarter-final. The 24 year old went on to reach the semi-finals at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships (l. to Ginepri) and the Legg Mason Tennis Classic (l. to Roddick). He next will face fourth-seeded Serbian Viktor Troicki.

German Andreas Beck set up a quarter-final meeting with sixth seed Jurgen Melzer after edging American lucky loser Donald Young 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-4. The No. 42-ranked Beck created 14 break points and was able to capitalise on four in the two-hour match. The 23 year old is enjoying a career-best season on the ATP World Tour and reached his first final at the Allianz Suisse Open Gstaad (l. to Bellucci) in August.

 

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