AFP - Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his third ATP title Sunday with a 6-4, 7-6 triumph over fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in a thrilling SA Tennis Open final.
Tsonga, the 23-year-old Le Mans-born son of a French mother and Congolese father, won in Bangkok and Paris last year and succeeded in the revived South African tournament without dropping a set in five matches.
But he was taken to the wire by 21-year-old Chardy from the south-west city of Pau, appearing in his first ATP final after reaching the fourth round of the French Open last year.
"I did a great job this week and am enjoying this moment. I am very happy to have succeeded and look forward to defending my title next year," world number 14 Tsonga told the capacity 3,000 centre-court crowd.
Chardy was sporting in defeat: "I congratulate Jo-Wilfried for a good match and wish him many more successes this year. It was wonderful to reach the final of an ATP event."
The first set went with serve for nine games and then Muhammad Ali-lookalike Tsonga lifted his game to race 40-0 ahead and although Chardy salvaged one point, an unforced error at the net cost him the game and the set.
It was tough on world number 61 Chardy, who shocked second seed David Ferrer of Spain Saturday in a three-set semi-finals thriller, as he created more break points than crowd favourite Tsonga.
The second set followed a similar pattern only this time there was no Tsonga breakthrough and after 12 games with service a tiebreaker was necessary on a warm, slightly overcast afternoon.
Both Frenchmen lost their first service point and then settled into a tense duel that was settled when Tsonga forced Chardy into an error on his service and then held his own for a 7-5 victory.
Tsonga collected 79,000 dollars for winning a championship back on the ATP circuit after a 13-year absence due to a lack of funds while Chardy picked up 41,500 dollars.