Nadal beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach Monte Carlo final
Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a return to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their semifinal match of the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament in Monaco, Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Published Saturday, April 20, 2013 9:54AM EDT
MONACO -- Eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal recorded his 46th consecutive win at the Monte Carlo Masters by beating Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6 (3) Saturday to reach the final.
The Spaniard has now reached five straight finals since returning from a seven-month layoff following a left knee injury. He will go for his fourth title of the season against the winner of Saturday's later semifinal between top-ranked Novak Djokovic and the unseeded Fabio Fognini of Italy.
The sixth-seeded Tsonga saved four match points as he rallied back from 5-1 down to force a second-set tiebreaker, which was evenly poised at 3-3 before Tsonga started making unforced errors again by hurrying his shots.
Nadal clinched the victory with a forehand winner and took a step closer to a ninth straight Monte Carlo title and to extending his Masters titles record to 23.
Tsonga started brightly but missed three breakpoint chances in the fourth game -- including one which left him shaking his head in disbelief after Nadal scooped the ball off his ankles and whipped it back down the line.
The flustered Frenchman lost his next service game easily and then lost his way totally, making 17 unforced errors in the first set compared to four for Nadal.
It looked like Nadal would wrap up the second set more quickly than the first, breaking for a 2-0 lead and later holding three match points at 5-2. Tsonga saved those with some excellent shot-making, and then started to believe he could turn the set around.
With Nadal serving for the match in the ninth game, Tsonga held two breakpoints that were erased by a pair of aces. The Spaniard made two unforced errors, however, to drop serve and the Frenchman then drew level at 5-5 as chants of "Tsonga, Tsonga" rang out in the crowd.
Tsonga saved a fourth match point in the 12th game when an off-balance Nadal sent a forehand well wide.
But Tsonga ultimately made too many unforced errors -- 39 to Nadal's 12 -- costing him a chance of taking Nadal into a third set, like Grigor Dimitrov had done in Friday's quarterfinals.
Nadal has not been defeated at Monte Carlo since losing to former French Open champion Guillermo Coria in 2003. Nadal missed the following year through injury.