Tokyo - Second seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bludgeoned close friend Gael Monfils
into submission with a 6-3, 7-6 victory in a first-round French
rendezvous at the $1.43 million Japan Open on Monday.
seven Juan Martin del Potro heads the Tokyo field in the absence of
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who pulled out to undergo minor back
The giant Argentine, US Open winner in 2009, faces
Cyprus's Marcos Baghdatis on Tuesday in his opening match at the venue
for the 2020 Olympic tennis competition.
Tsonga and Monfils live
close to each other in Switzerland and often socialise together, but the
French connection counted for little once they stepped on court as
Tsonga - frequently likened to Muhammad Ali because of his looks and
physique - overpowered his compatriot with a brutal display of hitting.
world number eight, still feeling his way back from a knee injury,
bulldozed his way to a 3-0 lead before taking the first set with a
vicious serve which was too hot for Monfils to handle.
"It's always difficult to play a friend," Tsonga told reporters. "I've known Gael such a long time.
hang out, we play video games, go out for dinner. So it wasn't fun. But
on court you give 100 percent out of respect for your friend."
brightening up centre court with his brilliant orange attire, began
badly off-key but made more of a fist of the second set, forcing a
However, Tsonga, the 2009 Japan Open champion, simply
had too much firepower and a fourth win in five meetings was never in
Having frittered away his first three match points
in the breaker, Tsonga clinched it 10-8 with a classic knockout blow, a
huge forehand into the corner setting up a simple put-away volley after
one hour, 31 minutes.
Tsonga retired from the second round at
Wimbledon and only returned at Metz a week ago, reaching the final.
After wrapping up victory over Monfils, Tsonga immediately grasped his
left knee and winced.
"No, it was just that I was cramping on my
calf," said the 28-year-old, sporting a baseball cap and tracksuit and
looking every inch the boxer.
"It was tough for me to come with the jet lag and the weather is completely different from Metz."
other matches, sixth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro beat qualifier
Benjamin Becker 7-6, 7-6 while Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov completed a
bad day for Germany with a 6-3, 6-1 thrashing of Daniel Brands.
Local hero Kei Nishikori begins the defence of his Tokyo title against Austria's Jurgen Melzer on Tuesday.
Results from the ATP Japan Open in Tokyo on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) bt Juan Monaco (ARG) 7-6 (7-4), 6-1
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x2) bt Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-3, 7-6, (10-8)
Nicolas Almagro (ESP x6) bt Benjamin Becker (GER) 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-3)
Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) bt Daniel Brands (GER) 6-3, 6-1