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Tsonga flattens Nadal for finals spot

Latest update : 2008-01-24

Unheralded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crushed second seed Rafael Nadal in straignt sets, 6-2 6-3 6-2, in the Australian Open semi-final to claim his first Grand Slam finals spot. He will meet either world number one Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

Unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stunned second seed Rafael Nadal with an unbelievable display of tennis to storm into the final of the Australian Open on Thursday.

In an astonishing performance of clean winners and aces, the 38th-ranked Tsonga claimed his fourth seeded scalp of the tournament, winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 57 minutes to reach the decider in only his fifth Grand Slam.

Tsonga now has the prospect of facing either three-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer or Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

Federer and Djokovic have a rematch of their 2007 US Open final in the other semi-final on Friday.

"It's unbelievable, just amazing, I don't know what to say," Tsonga said.

"Today I played unbelievable, nothing could stop me today and I'm just so happy. It's like a dream, I cannot believe it is true.

"It was my tactic, just to hit every ball and everything was in, so... what can I say."

In a night Tsonga won't forget he hit 49 winners, 17 aces and broke Nadal's serve five times to dominate the match points 89 to 58. Nadal did not break the Frenchman's serve.

It was the 22-year-old Frenchman's first win over a top-five player and follows his victories over seeded players, Andy Murray (9), Richard Gasquet (8) and Mikhail Youzhny (14).

He now has the opportunity to become the first winner in Australia since Jean Borotra in 1928 and becomes the first French finalist since Arnaud Clement seven years ago.

Tsonga is the eighth unseeded player to reach the Australian Open final since the ATP rankings begin in 1973, and is projected to climb from his current 38 to 27 when the new rankings come out next week.

He exploded out of the blocks and broke Nadal in his opening service with a sweet backhand crosscourt volley.

The Frenchman then broke the non-plussed second seed a second time with a booming forehand winner to take the opening set in 32 minutes. It was the first set Nadal had dropped at the tournament.

Nadal was under pressure again in the second set and fought off two break points on his opening service, but again was broken in the eighth game with Tsonga played a pirouetting volley at the net and then smashed home for the break.

Tsonga fired down three aces, all in the 200kmh range, to bring up three set points and then rammed home a forehand to make it 2-0.

He made 22 winners to two and Nadal failed to come up with one break point in the opening two sets, such was Tsonga's electrifying form.

Nadal finally got three break points in the second game of the final set, but Tsonga fought them off with two tremendous aces and was helped by a backhand error.

Tsonga had Nadal on the ropes in his next service game, coming up with two break points and the Spaniard skewed his forehand well wide for the break.

There was little Nadal could come up with to stop the torrent of winners and was broken for a fifth time, setting up Tsonga to serve out the match.

Tsonga clinched it on his first match point with an ace.

Date created : 2008-01-24