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Tsonga, Simon To Contest All-French QF

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Tsonga© AFP/Getty ImagesJo-Wilfried Tsonga is through to the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo for the first time.

Fourth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga set an all-French quarter-final clash with ninth seed Gilles Simon on Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters after finishing strongly to defeat Fernando Verdasco 7-6(7), 6-2.

Tsonga leads Simon 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having won their past four meetings, all on hard courts. "We do know each other, but it's going to be tight because both of us will want to win," declared Tsonga. "I believe it's going to be an electrifying match.

After an early rain delay, Tsonga trailed 4-6 in the first set tie-break, but rallied to clinch the opener. He then broke his Spanish opponent’s serve twice in the second set to claim victory in one hour and 43 minutes. He is through to the last eight at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament for the first time in three attempts and the result guarantees a French player in the semi-finals for the first time since 2005, when Richard Gasquet reached the last four (l. to Nadal).

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Tsonga, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Tuesday, has compiled a 21-6 match record this season, highlighted by winning his eighth ATP World Tour title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (d. Monfils) in the first week of the season. He is attempting to reach his second clay-court semi-final (Casablanca 2008).

"I'm always hungry for victories," said Tsonga. "I always go on the court wanting to win. Sometimes people are shocked when I say, 'If I come to this tournament, it's because I want to try to go to the end of the tournament.' But I think it's important."

Simon secured his place in the last eight by defeating seventh-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in two hours and 18 minutes. The Frenchman withstood 11 aces and saved nine of the 10 break points he faced to record his fourth win in four meetings with Tipsarevic.

"I believe it was more physical than tactical," said Simon. "I liked the conditions. They were heavy and slow. I hadn't anticipated that he would play the way he did, playing long rallies, being patient. In fact, it suited me. I like playing like that."

The 27-year-old Simon is through to his fourth quarter-final of the season and improved to a 16-9 match record. Looking ahead to the clash with Tsonga, he said, "I know his game can be extremely bothersome on clay, like on any other surface, for that matter. I will have to hang in there, show him I'm always there, and that he can't have a letdown at any moment because then I will be back."

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