Simon digs deep, Tsonga survives epic battle
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Top French seeds Simon, Gasquet and Tsonga advanced into the third round in Melbourne as world number one Rafael Nadal thumped Croatia's Roko Karanusic in straight sets to set up a testing clash with Germany's Tommy Haas.
Gilles Simon overcame the distraction of a hostile crowd and an opponent armed with one of the most lethal serves in tennis before booking his place in the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The Frenchman failed in his attempts to win over the parochial Australian crowd but did at least succeed in finding a way to blunt the booming serve of Chris Guccione and win 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-2, knocking out the last local player in the men's singles draw.
Simon, who is 20 centimetres shorter than the giant left-handed Australian, feared the worst when he lost the opening set in a tiebreaker to the towering Guccione.
The centre court crowd roared with delight every time the Frenchman was aced but once Simon found a way to get the ball back into play, it was the Australian who was suddenly struggling.
"I knew it would be hard (because) I prefer to play a player playing from the baseline," Simon said.
"I just knew (I had) to get (the ball) into the court. That's why, even when I lost the first set, I just tried to focus on what I had to do."
Once Simon started returning Guccione's serve, the match was as good as over. The Frenchman had few difficulties picking holes in Guccione's serve-and-volley game, whacking an impressive 53 winners.
"It's an easy way to play, you don't have the choice," Simon said.
"He's just coming to the net every time he can.
"But what is hard is to stay focused on every point because you can feel the frustration even during the match because there is the crowd for him.
"Every time he's serving an ace, 'Yeah, c'mon'.
"That's why I'm pretty happy to win, because I didn't take pleasure to play today. It was really hard."
Simon, seeded sixth for the first grand slam of the year, has made huge strides in world tennis over the last 12 months, reaching a career-high ranking of six, but has never made it past the third round of a grand slam.
He faces Croatia's Mario Ancic on Saturday.
Tsonga survives marathon Ljubicic clash
Courageous fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga survived a 195-minute marathon to down Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (8/7), 6-2 in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
In a high-quality match played on the Hisense Arena, Tsonga and Ljubicic could barely be separated as they went toe-to-toe in an enthralling contest.
"I played really well out there," said the Frenchman.
"I was proud of myself because I was very courageous today."
Tsonga, who enraptured local fans as he won his way to the final of the 2008 Open, had his work cut out from the moment he lost his second service game.
He broke back later in the first set but the big-serving Ljubicic played better in the tie-break and took the early advantage.
Both men were serving superbly and it was no surprise when the next two sets went to tie-breaks.
Tsonga levelled the match when he took the second set tie-break 10/8, setting up set point with a cracking forehand down the line then blasting an ace to win the set.
He then saved three set points in the third set tie-break before going ahead with two sets to one on his first set point opportunity.
The fourth set started much the same way as both players comfortably won their first two service games and another tie-break beckoned.
But at 2-2 Tsonga suddenly attacked and broke Ljubicic to love.
He served out a solid game to go ahead 4-2, then broke Ljubicic for 5-2.
The Frenchman, who appeared to be cramping in his right leg during the fourth set, showed no signs of nerves as he served out the match.
Australian Open men's singles second round results :
Gilles Simon (FRA x6) bt Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Fernando Gonzalez (CHI x13) bt Guillermo Canas (ARG) 7-5, 6-3, 6-4
Richard Gasquet (FRA x24) bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Dudi Sela (ISR) bt Victor Hanescu (ROM) 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
Tommy Haas (GER) bt Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-1, 6-2, 6-1
Jurgen Melzer (AUT x31) bt Andreas Beck (GER) 5-7, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, 6-3
Nicolas Almagro (ESP x17) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2, 7-5, 6-0
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Roko Karanusic (CRO) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Fernando Verdasco (ESP x14) bt Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-1, 6-1, 6-2
Mario Ancic (CRO) bt Ivo Karlovic (CRO x25) 5-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Gael Monfils (FRA x12) bt Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
Radek Stepanek (CZE x22) bt Michael Berrer (GER) 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x5) bt Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (8/7), 6-2
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