In the semifinal at the Erste Bank Open, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Ivo Karlovic in a tight match 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(6) to advance to Sunday's final, where he will play Andy Murray after his opponent, David Ferrer, withdrew with a knee injury.
Karlovic grabs lone break; goes up a set
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga started confident on serve, holding to love. Ivo Karlovic also came out serving confidently as both players got on the scoreboard. However, Karlovic seemed to have settled into the match much better and put the Frenchman under some early pressure in the fifth game, drawing level at 30-30. Tsonga got out of trouble and held serve firing the ace to go 3-2.
Once more, Karlovic troubled Tsonga putting him under some more pressure. This time around, bringing the game to deuce before Tsonga's serving got him out of trouble but the Croat did have a look at four-second serves in the game. With the set level at 5-5, the biggest test came for the 31-year-old.
The 37-year-old brought the game to deuce before a double-fault from Tsonga presented the match's first break point. The Frenchman crumbled hitting his second double fault in succession to gift the break to Karlovic for 5-6. It was the Croatian's turn to be put under some pressure. After hitting a slice down the line, Tsonga then ran it down, hit the backhand passing shot and earned a break back point at 40-30.
A huge ace down the middle brought the game to deuce, however, in the very next point Karlovic missed a forehand and once more, faced a break point. Karlovic switched his serve up, going out wide and a second break point was saved. The Croat eventually finished off Tsonga by hitting another ace to win the set, 5-7.
Tsonga fights back; forces a deciding set
Tsonga started the second the way he finished the first. Under constant pressure. Down 0-30, he produced a brilliant forehand and a Karlovic miss at the net brought the game to 30-all. An overhead smash and an unforced error gave the Frenchman the game to get the set underway. Karlovic also faced difficulty on serve but managed to get out of trouble and hold.
A tentative forehand from the world number 15 gave Karlovic triple break points. Things went from bad to worse for the Frenchman as his six ft eleven opponent broke to continue the momentum from the first set. An easy hold of serve to love made it 1-3. Tsonga gained a break back point in the sixth game following a double fault from Karlovic. The ace out wide denied Tsonga as Karlovic held from then on in for a 2-4 lead.
The Croat had chances to go up a double break. In the longest game of the match, Karlovic had four chances to put away Tsonga but the Frenchman hung on for dear life and scraped through the service game that would ultimately change his fortunes. In the very next game, Karlovic collapsed on serve hitting back-to-back double faults as Tsonga brought up a break back point.
Karlovic capitulated on serve, firing a third double fault in the game to give Tsonga a lifeline and draw back level at 4-4. The Frenchman found a spring in his step and held serve winning eleven points in a row. Karlovic then stopped the rot and held for 5-5. The Frenchman also held serve to love to be within a game of the set. 30-all in a crucial game, the world number 23 overcooked a simple volley which gave Tsonga a break/set point. The Frenchman hit an incredible return to level the match at one set apiece, 7-5.
Tsonga wins match on tiebreaker; advances to final
Both players got the third set underway with a couple of good holds of serve. After holding serve for 3-2, Karlovic was then put under some pressure. Tsonga hit a razor sharp return to bring up two break points. Despite saving one of the break points, Karlovic collapsed on serve again and Tsonga broke. But the Frenchman couldn't consolidate and Karlovic broke immediately back following a poor volley. Both players then got into a rhythm on serve and Karlovic sent the match into a crucial tiebreaker.
At 2-2 in the breaker, Karlovic gained the mini break but just two points later surrendered the break as he was beaten by a rare lob. The Croat did get the break back a point later but couldn't hold on to it as he got tight and served a double-fault. A first match point went the way of the Croatian as he thundered a big second serve. Tsonga upped the anti, served and volleyed his way out of trouble before a set point went his way. The Frenchman won the next point, the tiebreaker 7-6(6) and the match to progress to the final ending any hopes Karlovic had.