Jo-Wilfried Tsonga serves in his second-round win over Denis Shapovalov.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga serves in his second-round win over Denis Shapovalov. LUKAS COCH

Smoking Jo keeps on swinging

TENNIS: Ten years ago Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was likened to a young Muhammed Ali when he contested the Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic.

Yesterday, he was forced to fight like few times in his career before ultimately delivering a knock-out blow against rising rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov in an epic five-set thriller.

The 15th seed looked gone when trailing 2-5 in the final set before he was stung into action, his 18-year-old opponent wilting as they traded blows.

Tsonga eventually triumphed 3-6 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 win in a match lasting three hours, 37 minutes on Margaret Court Arena and was to face either Australian 17th seed Nick Kyrgios or Serbia's Viktor Troicki in the third round, who played last night.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates his win over Denis Shapovalov.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates his win over Denis Shapovalov. Dita Alangkara

The Frenchman's win ended his three-match losing run in five-setters and reversed his defeat to Shapovalov in straight sets in the second round at last year's US Open.

"I'm tired, but really happy,” Tsonga said. "I did a big fight today.

"It's not easy against these young guns, they go for everything, but I just continued to fight.”

It extended Tsonga's record at the Australian Open to 36-10 after he was runner-up to Djokovic in the 2008 championship decider.

Denis Shapovalov stretches to make a return against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Denis Shapovalov stretches to make a return against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. LUKAS COCH

Shapovalov actually won more points yesterday, claiming 160 to Tsonga's 153.

Ranked 50 in the world, the Israeli-born player earned praise from tennis great Rod Laver.

"Such a talented player. Going up in the world,” Laver tweeted.

Luxembourg's Gilles Muller also won a five-set classic, downing Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 7-5 6-4 6-7 3-6 6-2 to set up a match against Pablo Carreno Busta, who got through after Gilles Simon retired.



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