By Dave Lindsay
Flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made an impressive Hyundai Hopman Cup debut claiming a comprehensive straight sets victory over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to give his side a 1-0 lead in Sunday night’s tie.
Tsonga started slowly but found touch as the match progressed, taking the match 7-5 6-3 in just under two hours.
Verdasco, who lost to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson yesterday, was in excellent form early while Tsonga appeared distracted by a contentious umpiring decision and surrendered an early break of serve.
The left-handed Spaniard had the first set under control serving at 5-3 but became tentative when attempting to serve it out and despite holding three set points was unable to deliver the knockout blow.
At that point the momentum of the match swung dramatically as Tsonga pressured the Verdasco serve to force the break and he went on to win the last four games of the set.
The world No.9 sensed an opportunity and maintained his advantage early in the second set breaking Verdasco immediately and the match appeared to be headed for an early conclusion.
However, Verdasco responded by breaking Tsonga’s serve immediately only to surrender his next service game to allow the athletic Frenchman to keep his nose in front.
From that point on the Spaniard was unable to find a way back into the match despite firing winners off both wings.
Verdasco faced three match points against his serve when down 2-5 but displayed his fighting spirit to hold serve and force his opponent to serve the match out.
Tsonga showed no sign of nerves, comfortably holding serve and securing the first rubber of the tie.
As is customary the Frenchman celebrated with his victory dance much to the delight of the strong crowd inside the Perth Arena.
As she did yesterday against South Africa, Anabel Medina Garrigues is faced with the task of keeping her nation’s hopes alive in the tie when she takes to the court against France’s Mathilde Johansson.