Published February 24, 2012
MARSEILLE, France – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro each won for the 200th time in his career Friday, setting up a semifinal between the two at the Open 13.
The top-seeded Tsonga beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 7-5 in an all-French quarterfinal, and Del Potro edged Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-6 (5).
The other semifinal pits Janko Tipsarevic against Michael Llodra, the 2010 champion. Tipsarevic, a Serbian seeded third, defeated Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4. Llodra downed 6-foot-8 qualifier Albano Olivetti 7-6 (5), 7-5 in another match between Frenchmen.
Tsonga served 14 aces and saved 10 break points in another all-French match. Tsonga dropped serve in the opening game but broke back in the sixth. He hit 18 winners to 11 for Roger-Vasselin to take the first set when his opponent netted a forehand volley.
Roger-Vasselin double-faulted at 6-5 in the next set to give Tsonga two match points. Tsonga converted the first on a forehand error from Roger-Vasselin.
"I didn't play better than him today," said Tsonga, the 2009 champion. "But I was stronger in my head in the key moments."
Del Potro served 15 aces in a tight match — he won just one more point than Gasquet (78-77). He led 3-1 in the last set but Gasquet, a former top 10 player, broke back in the eighth game. The fourth-seeded Argentine then saved a set point at 6-5 to force a tiebreaker before clinching the victory with a diving backhand volley.
"This match could be a semi or a final, for sure," Del Potro said. "Now I will play Tsonga and it's still semifinals. You can see how tough is this tournament."
The 2009 U.S. Open champion whipped a forehand winner to take the first set. He saved two set points at 5-4 with a forehand winner and an ace. In the next game, Gasquet missed a smash to drop serve.
Tipsarevic did not face a break point and broke Ljubicic in the opening game of the first set before breaking for a 3-2 lead in the second.
Tsonga was the player with the most aces on the ATP Tour last season, although France has found another hard-serving player in 20-year-old Olivetti. Olivetti lost to Llodra, but left an impression on the home crowd after beating Mardy Fish on Thursday.
Olivetti hit a serve of 158 mph last year on the Challenger Tour. But Ivo Karlovic of Croatia still holds the world record of 156 mph because only performances on the ATP Tour are taken into account.
Still, Llodra outslugged Olivetti with 14 aces to 13 on Friday, and did not face a break point.
"Michael served smartly," Olivetti said.
Olivetti netted a backhand volley at 5-5 to drop serve and Llodra converted his first match point with an ace. The 388th-ranked Olivetti double-faulted twice in the tiebreaker and Llodra won the first set when Olivetti sent a backhand into the net.
"Those two double-faults cost me dearly," Olivetti said. "That's the reason why I lost the tiebreaker."