Wawrinka beats Tsonga to reach first French Open final
PARIS (AP) - One year after his first-round loss in Paris, Stan Wawrinka will be playing in the final of the French Open.
The eighth-seeded Swiss player advanced to his first final at Roland Garros with a 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over local favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
In sizzling temperatures, Wawrinka overcame strong resistance from the 14th-seeded Tsonga in a gripping match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
''It was a big battle and I'm happy I was able to pull through it,'' Wawrinka said. ''He deserved to make it to the final as much as I did.''
Wawrinka's ability to raise his game when it really mattered was the key, with the 2014 Australian Open champion saving 16 of the 17 break points he faced.
He also served 15 aces and hit 60 winners to progress to his second final at a Grand Slam tournament.
Wawrinka, who beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic or third-seeded Andy Murray in Sunday's final.
''I feel like I'm in the right place, but at the same time this is not normal because I'm not part of the Big Four,'' Wawrinka said.
After ground crews finished watering the court, Tsonga was quick in action and earned three break points in the first game but failed to convert them. Wawrinka was not so charitable, seizing his second break opportunity with a backhand down the line to move up 3-1.
Wawrinka denied Tsonga another chance to break back in the seventh game with a forehand winner, then sealed the set in 35 minutes with another punishing serve.
After dropping his serve early in the second set, Tsonga let Wawrinka dictate play with his clinical baseline groundstrokes, but the Frenchman made the most of the Swiss' blip in concentration in the eighth game, breaking to level at 4-4 after Wawrinka hit two double faults.
Tsonga saved five break points in a tight 11th game and was then the stronger player in a lopsided tiebreaker marred by some unusual mistakes from Wawrinka.
The Swiss continued to struggle at the start of the third set and received treatment on the middle finger of his right hand at the changeover after holding his serve for a 2-1 lead. Put on the back foot by Tsonga's returns, Wawrinka dug deep to save two new break points in the ninth game. He yelled ''Come On!'' and ''Allez'' after every winner and raised his fist in triumph as he returned to his chair.
''There were just two or three points that made the difference, and I found a way to fight,'' said Wawrinka, a former junior champion in Paris.
Both players showed nerves early in the tiebreaker, with Tsonga firing a big smash wide just before Wawrinka netted an easy backhand volley. But Wawrinka found his rhythm at the right time, winning the last four points to seal the set. Tsonga dropped his next service game at love after hitting a double-fault and could not find his way back into the match as his hopes of becoming the first Frenchman to reach the final in Paris since Henri Leconte in 1988 vanished.
''He played well from the very beginning of the match, preventing me from being aggressive,'' Tsonga said. ''On the whole, he was better. He was more clinical.''