All-French SA Open final
In the final (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Jeremy Chardy shocked Spaniard David Ferrer on Saturday to set up an all-French SA Tennis Open final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Fifth seed Chardy, who turns 22 next Thursday and is ranked 61 in the world, staged a superb comeback to triumph 1-6, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (7/4) against second seed Ferrer at Montecasino entertainment centre.
The second semi-final failed to deliver the same level of excitement with top seed Tsonga outclassing Portuguese Frederico Gil 6-3, 6-4 before a capacity 3 000 centre-court crowd in hot, overcast conditions.
"I'm so tired and so happy. My dream of playing Tsonga in the final has come true. Winning the title would be a perfect birthday present," said Chardy after the 148-minute thriller.
"I was terrible in the first set and left with nothing to lose. From then on I took my chances, but I don't really know why I won. Maybe I went to the net more after the bad start."
Stern-faced Ferrer squandered a match point in the 10th game of the second set and was to pay a high price as Chardy forced a tiebreaker and survived a further two match points for the Spaniard before triumphing.
Each player held serve six times in the final set to create another tiebreaker and Chardy overcame a cramp scare to take a 4-2 lead and hold his nerve to advance.
Ferrer, the highest ranked player in the tournament at 13, was unruffled as he cruised into the semi-finals, but could not cope with a resurgent Chardy and after losing his temper several times, flung a racquet across the court.
Tsonga, one place below Ferrer on the world rankings, gained his fourth consecutive straight-set victory of the tournament against an opponent appearing in an ATP Tour semi-final for the first time.
"I know Frederico well. He is a nice guy and playing against him was difficult. I was not at my best, making a lot of errors, but I expect to defeat Jeremy in the final," said Tsonga.