On paper a Round 2 showdown between Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Japan’s Go Soeda looked like a mismatch from the get-go.
The physically imposing Tsonga, the world No.8, reached the Australian Open 2008 final and has reached the third round or better for the past five years at Melbourne Park.
His more slightly built opponent, although a year older at 28, was making just his second Australian Open main draw appearance and recorded only his second career Grand Slam match win when he beat Australian wildcard Luke Saville in the opening round.
Tsonga’s class shone through in the end, but Soeda, the world No.73, put up a good fight in a 6-3 7-6(1) 6-3 loss. The popular Frenchman prevailed in just over two hours in front of a capacity crowd on Margaret Court Arena.
Soeda was more than up to the challenge, sticking with Tsonga early in the match.
The Frenchman secured the only break of the first set in the sixth game and served it out 6-3 in 37 minutes.
Soeda, who reached a career-high ranking of 47 last season, struck first in the second set, breaking Tsonga’s serve and racing to a 3-0 lead. The 28-year-old Japanese player served for the set at 5-3 but was broken.
Tsonga’s superior firepower and consistency was on show late in the set, as he took it 7-1 in a tiebreak.
The Frenchman was in cruise control from then on, breaking in the sixth game of the third set to snare a 4-2 lead.
A true entertainer, Tsonga did push-ups on court after slipping mid way through the third set much to the amusement of the crowd, before comfortably taking it 6-3 in 34 minutes.
Tsonga hit 17 aces and finished with 44 winners for the match, but believes he has a lot of room for improvement.
“I didn't play a good match,” Tsonga said.
“I'm happy to go through, but I didn't have the right attitude on this match. I hope I will be better in the next one.”
He will face either Australian wildcard James Duckworth or Slovenian Blaz Kavcic in the third round.
“I will try to be a bit more aggressive, try to play more than my game than what I did today,” Tsonga said.