Roquebrune, April 6
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated American teenager Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 to give France a 1-0 lead against the United States in their Davis Cup quarterfinal on Friday.
The sixth-ranked Tsonga found it tough at times against the 19-year-old Harrison, who was playing in his first meaningful Davis Cup match. Harrison’s big forehands and aggressive shot-making forced Tsonga to hurry shots as he tried to shorten the rallies.
Tsonga broke Harrison in the 12th game to take a laborious opening set in 54 minutes, then began to find his range as Harrison’s temper frayed.
Captain Jim Courier spoke with Harrison for smashing his racket into the ground after his double-fault gave Tsonga a 3-1 lead in the second set.
John Isner will play Gilles Simon in the next singles match. Isner won the two previous matches against Simon, a late call-up for the injured Gael Monfils. Harrison replaced ninth-ranked Mardy Fish when he pulled out with fatigue earlier this week.
Harrison, ranked 66th with only one Davis Cup match to his name — a meaningless dead rubber in the 5-0 thrashing of Switzerland in February — was far from intimidated and applied the early pressure.
He broke for a 2-1 lead when Tsonga, having just saved a break point with a net volley, scooped a sloppy forehand into the net.
Harrison was causing Tsonga some problems with his whipped forehands, but Tsonga broke back on Harrison’s double fault for 2-2.
Having missed another chance to break Tsonga in the next game, Harrison’s composure started to erode and he angrily swiped the ball into the net after a double-fault in the 10th game. He held for 5-5, but then lost the set on his next service game.
A stunning double-handed backhand wrongfooted Harrison and gave Tsonga set point. Harrison survived a brief barrage of shots to clip a neat net volley to tie at deuce.
But Harrison’s forehand went wide on the next point, giving Tsonga another chance. The Frenchman pinned Harrison back with some heavy forehands before clinching a difficult opener with a flashy backhand volley at the net.
When Tsonga broke in the fourth game of the second set for 3-1, Harrison took it out on his racket, whacking it so violently into the ground that the frame bent into a right angle. That prompted Courier, the former two-time French Open champion, to have a gentle word with him.
Tsonga broke Harrison again in the eighth game, putting the American under pressure with a volley that he could only return long.
Courier offered a sympathetic ear to Harrison at the end of the second set, nodding while Harrison spoke as they plotted a way for him to get back into the match.
Their chat seemed to work, with Harrison sweeping Tsonga aside in the third set, breaking his serve three times.
But Tsonga drew on his experience and regained control of the match in the fourth set, taking Harrison’s serve with a smash and holding for a 3-0 lead.
Tsonga sealed victory on his first match point when, after a brief rally, Harrison’s backhand from the back of the court hit the net.