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Jet-lagged Tsonga defeated

2012-01-11 10:20

Melbourne - A jetlagged Jo-Wilfried Tsonga paid the price for a flight halfway round the world on Wednesday as he lost his Kooyong Classic opener in straight sets to Austria's Jurgen Melzer.

The eight-man Kooyong tournament, where players face three matches in the space of four days, is a key warm-up for the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

Tsonga recorded the best grand slam performance of his career when he reached the Australian Open final in 2008 but admitted he had not adjusted to the time difference from Doha, where he won the Qatar Open on Saturday.

Canadian Milos Raonic, who arrived from Chennai after winning the Indian event, lost 6-1, 6-2 to American Mardy Fish. He withdrew a few hours later, citing exhaustion and was to be replaced in the draw by Japan's Kei Nishikori.

Tsonga's 6-4, 6-3 defeat in cold and blustery conditions drops the French world number six into the relegation round.

"I'm not feeling very well. I still have jetlag. We train a lot and we all want to be ready for the Open. Today was difficult with the conditions," said Tsonga.

"It is difficult to play in the wind. I'm not used to it anymore. I play most of my matches in big stadiums where there is little wind. When we return to conditions like this, it's difficult for us."

Tsonga had beaten the 30-year-old Melzer in both of their two previous meetings, both in 2008.

"We had really tough conditions but when the wind wasn't blowing I hit some good shots," said Melzer. "It's always good to get a win over a top 10 guy.

"I had some good form today. I hope to keep it up this week and straight through to the Open."

Tsonga's countryman Gael Monfils, the losing finalist in Doha, came up a winner as he beat three-time Kooyong champion Andy Roddick 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3). He will next play Bernard Tomic.

"It was a tough match, very windy," said Monfils, Kooyong runner-up last year. "I stayed focused and won it. This is good Australian Open preparation. Andy is always tough, this was a good match."

Australian 19-year-old Tomic, ranked 37th, began living up to local expectations as he bids to fill the shoes of fading hero Lleyton Hewitt, scoring a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Czech Tomas Berdych.

He also struggled with the wind, calling the game he had to play on court "not tennis."

"It's good to play in the wind before the Australian Open," said the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist. "I had to just slice and try to keep the ball in the court. The winner is going be the guy who can do that, but anything can happen.

"I played well, I'm happy, I'll take a lot out of this week. It's the most serious exhibition you can have, it's not a show. It was a good match for preparation," Berdych said.

AFP