/

Tsonga dominates Mayer, reaches Shanghai semis

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga roared into the semifinals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters on Friday with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded German Florian Mayer.

Tsonga, who beat Kei Nishikori in the third round on Thursday, overpowered Mayer with his booming serve and huge forehand.

Tsonga had 23 winners to Mayer’s 12 to advance to the last four here for the first time in five appearances.

Mayer, ranked 50th, gave his best effort but was no match for Tsonga on this day.

Tsonga struggled to hold serve in the opening game of the first set, but Mayer could not convert and was unable to break his opponent the entire match.

With the score 2-2, Tsonga suddenly found his stroke. He won the fifth game at love on serve, then broke Mayer to go up 4-2.

Tsonga, ranked ninth in the world, then tore through the final two games to take the first set in 27 minutes.

The second set opened with Tsonga taking the first game by hitting a trick shot between his legs with his back turned that Mayer netted.

The set stayed on serve until the eighth game, when Tsonga uncorked a massive crosscourt forehand from far behind the baseline for a winner and a 5-3 lead.

Tsonga staved off a break point in the next game to close out the contest on serve in 1 hour, 4 minutes.

“I played well today,” said Tsonga. “I had some trouble to finish the match. But in general I think I played well.”

Mayer, who turned 30 last week, upset third seed David Ferrer on Thursday to make the quarters.

The 28-year-old Tsonga began the year strongly, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the semifinals at the French Open. After finishing runnerup to Andy Murray at Queen’s Club, however, Tsonga was forced to retire with a left knee injury in the second round at Wimbledon, and did not enter the U.S. Open as a result.

He was sidelined for approximately two months while recovering from the injury.

“I’m feeling good now,” stated Tsonga. “I still have some problem with the knee, but not enough to keep me off the court. But if I have a tough match like yesterday, after that sometimes I have a little feeling on my knee. So I have to be careful.”

Tsonga will battle top seed Novak Djokovic, who rallied to beat unseeded Gael Monfils of France 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4.

Tsonga has lost to Djokovic the last eight times they have taken the court.

“I have not played well against him recently, but I hope I can change that,” Tsonga commented. “He has lost more matches this year than in the past. Maybe this is an opportunity for me … ”

Sixth seed Juan Martin del Potro, who won the Rakuten Open last week, put away Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-3 in their quarterfinal.

Rafael Nadal, the second seed, moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) win over unseeded Carlos Berlocq of Argentina on Thursday night.

Nadal will face eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland later Friday.

Kei’s calendar: Following his third-round loss to Tsonga, Kei Nishikori will take a week off before he returns to the court.

Nishikori will play next at the Swiss Indoors in Basel, before wrapping up the season as the Paris Masters event.

Rocket speaks: Legendary player Rod Laver, the only man to win the Grand Slam in a calendar year, a feat he achieved twice, spoke to a select group of media on Thursday afternoon at the tournament.

Now 75, the Australian spoke candidly about his view of modern players, how technology has changed the game, and how he would fare in the present day.

Laver’s comments will be the focus of an upcoming Match Point column in The Japan Times.

Growth industry: The China Daily reported in Friday’s edition that with the move of next year’s WTA Premier 5 tournament from Tokyo to Wuhan, the nation will now have eight women’s events on the annual calendar. The Pan Pacific Open, which enjoyed a 30-year run in Japan, will be replaced by a lower-level competition in 2014.

WTA chairman Stacey Allaster also told the newspaper that 60 percent of the organization’s 70 million followers on social media come from China. This was attributed in part to the popularity of Li Na, who became the first Chinese to win a Grand Slam when she captured the 2011 French Open crown.