World No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won two tiebreaks against World No. 7 and tournament top seed Marin Cilic on Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Rotterdam Open, where he’ll face a familiar foe: Tomas Berdych.
Berdych, who is ranked 13th in the world and handily dispatched Rotterdam defending champion Martin Klizan 6-3, 6-3, has won nine of the pair’s 12 career meetings, including a 7-5, 6-3 win over Tsonga at the Qatar Open earlier this year.
But aside from that loss, Tsonga has lost only two other matches this year: One to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open quarterfinals, and a three-setter to wonderteen Alexander Zverev in Montpellier. Tsonga said he’s “been feeling great the past couple of months,” and his tiebreaker win over Cilic, who, admittedly, has been struggling mightily in the early going of 2017, will surely boost his confidence.
The match was as close as could be with Tsonga winning 89 points to Cilic’s 88. Cilic hit 19 forehand winners, compared to Tsonga’s 12, and committed 20 unforced errors in the two-hour match while Tsonga had 22. The difference-makers for Tsonga were his serve — he smoked 17 aces — and his crushing two-handed backhand which helped him open up the court, forcing Cilic to hit more groundstrokes on the run. Here’s one of the match’s longer rallies, late in the first set (Cilic finished it off with a backhand up the line):
Cilic also squandered a couple of set points in the first-set tiebreak, at 7-6 and 8-7, after climbing back from a 5-1 deficit. Tsonga then failed to convert a few set points of his own before cracking a forehand winner down the line to win it 10-8. In the second set, Tsonga won the breaker 7-5. It was the first time the Frenchman had defeated Cilic since 2011.
The other quarterfinal matchups are No. 3-seed David Goffin vs. No. 5-seed Grigor Dimitrov, who’s playing some of the best tennis on tour, and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. No. 2-seed Dominic Thiem.