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French Open 2015 Day 8: Tsonga dazzles in home delight

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga leaps into the air in celebration
by Alex Sharp
Sunday 31 May 2015

Wimbledon.com's highlights from the eighth day of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros as Jo Wilfried-Tsonga lights up Chatrier and Ana Ivanovic rejoins the last eight club.

Back with a bang

The raucous Philippe Chatrier crowd were treated to a trio of home favourites on court on Sunday as Jo Wilfried-Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Alize Cornet aimed to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals.

Tsonga reached the final eight in Paris for the third time after a breathtaking performance against No.4 seed Tomas Berdych.

The Frenchman dismantled an out of sorts Berdych in the opening two sets, combining accurate and crisp hitting with his jaw dropping power to lead 6-3, 6-2.

The Czech had never recovered from two sets down in a Major and Tsonga seemed in total control. However in a compelling third set, the 30-year-old  failed to serve out the match at 5-4 and let a dejected Berdych back into the fight.

He needed no invitation as Tsonga went for too much flamboyance, Berdych prevailed in the tie-break from 3-0 down and forced another set.

Berdych was completely rejuvenated and striking the ball smoothly to lead by a break but Tsonga rallied the crowd and with some sumptuous variety to lead 5-3. This time Tsonga held his nerve to serve out the match and send the Phillippe Chatrier into raptures, earning a standing ovation.

“You have people who tell you that it's finished for you and you have people who tell you, continue to fight, because you have the tennis to play well. Yeah, that's why I'm happy today, because I'm playing solid tennis. You know, the confidence is back.” Tsonga was evidently keen to prove his doubters wrong.

The end score: 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3

Federer and Monfils magic halted

After rain played havoc with proceedings, 2009 champion Roger Federer and perennial entertainer Gael Monfils finally started play at 19:22 local time.

The light was fading but the quality certainly didn’t diminish as Federer illustrated all his full artistry to lead 3-0 before closing the opener 6-3.

Monfils capitalised upon Federer’s hesitancy at the start of the second to mirror the start and go 3-0 ahead himself.

The showman was firing on all cylinders as Federer became increasingly frustrated before a majestic game handed the Swiss maestro a break to go 5-4 down.

However Monfils was far from finished and hit too rasping winners to land the set and send the Parisian crowd into bedlam.

Home heartache

Sadly for the home crowd there was heartache for Alize Cornet , who had won her previous two encounters with Ukrainian youngster Elina Svitolina.

The 29th seed had to contend with severe weather conditions in her rain delayed contest and Svitolina, who won the Junior Roland Garros title in 2010, was quick out the blocks with devastating force to take the opener 6-2.

The stakes were high as neither player had reached a Grand Slam quarter-final before and Cornet was desperate to triumph in front of her home fans.

However the hard-hitting Svitolina kept nudging ahead with impressive composure, only for Cornet to claw back breaks with last ditch defence.

The nerves began to show for Svitolina, who failed to serve out the match twice at 5-4 and again at 6-5, with Cornet continuing to feed from the vehement Parisian support.

A tie-break was needed and a familiar pattern ensued. Svitolina stormed ahead 6-3 but Cornet sparked back into life with some full-throttle shot making.

Svitolina pounced at 9-all to force the error and secure the win on her sixth match point to become the first ever Ukrainian in the final eight at Roland Garros.

'‘It’s great for me and it shows that I’m moving the right way,'’ said Svitolina. Her reward is a match with Ana Ivanovic, who she has failed to beat in their previous six meetings.

The end score: 6-2, 7-6(9)

Ivanovic battles back into contention

Former champion Ana Ivanovic reached the quarter-finals of Roland Garros for the first time since her 2008 triumph with a three sets victory over Ekaterina Makarova.

Ivanovic was cheered on by her animated boyfriend , Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, on Court Suzanne Lenglen to book a place in the last eight.

The Serb produced a fine attacking display, aiming for the lines and earning a crucial break in the 12th game of the first set with a clinical forehand winner.

The blustery conditions affected Ivanovic’s serve and Makarova ceased her chance to go ahead in set two but the 27-year-old regrouped an cantered to 6-1 in the decider.

“Amazing really. To be honest coming in to the tournament I didn’t expect it at all.” Ivanovic  appears surprised by her return to the quarter-finals.

The end score:  7-5, 3-6, 6-1

Nishikori flies through

Japan’s leading light was looking sharp after three days off and dispatched Russian teymuraz Gabashvili with consummate ease to set up an intriguing battle with Tsonga in the last eight.

Meanwhile, after Nishikori on Suzanne Lenglen, Stan Wawrinka demolished French hope Giles Simon in straight sets to await the winner of Federer or Monfils.

Stat of the day

Nishikori became the first Japanese male to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros after Jiro Satoh reached the semi-finals in 1933.

Worth a mention

British junior Katie Swan fought valiantly from 2-5 down in the decider to beat American Michaela Gordon 4-6, 6-4, 8-6, in two hours and 50 minutes.

Pick of the quotes

“I think it's because I'm Serbian. Yeah, but all the Serbians are like this (smiling). We have combustible personalities and we are very emotional,” joked Ivanovic about her on-court intensity.

“For me, it's a privilege. I always enjoy to be here. They always push me. They remind  me that they are behind me all the time,” Reflects Tsonga over his passionate home support.

Cornet wants to play in front of the ardent home crowd more often, “We only have Paris and Strasbourg left. It's not much, so maybe if I can send a little message to the tournament director that I want to create a tournament in France, it would be really amazing for the French players.”

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