9 February 2009
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was crowned 2009 South African Tennis Open champion, pocketing the R800 000 winner’s cheque at Montecasino in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Even on a day when the top-seeded Muhammad Ali look-alike battled to find his rhythm in difficult high altitude conditions, he wore down fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on his way to a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
Tsonga said afterwards that inexperience counted heavily against his countryman on the day. “I think Jeremy played well, but was let down by lack of experience when it mattered most.
‘He took a lot of risks’
“There were times when he took a lot of risks, and it did not always come good for him. This was his first ATP World Tour final; he now has the experience of playing in a final and I am sure he will do well in the future.
“It is always hard starting the match on serve, but what is important is that I improved as the match progressed.
“This result is good for me as it keeps me on course; for me to get in the top ten, I have to win at least two tournaments and now that I have the SA Tennis Open in the bag so early in the year, I can now play the rest of the year without too much pressure,” he added.
Tsonga, who is very proud of his African origins (his father is Ivorian) was impressed with the organisation and facilities at the event. “I think the tournament was well prepared for a first time edition. Everything was great and the only notable problem for me was the high altitude, but that is the nature of tennis; one has to adapt in different weather conditions.
Victory for Tsonga was a well-deserved reward for the support he had shown the SA Tennis Open. He flew to South Africa to promote the tournament and then, during the tournament, took time out to hold a coaching clinic in Soweto.
Chardy said his unforced errors came about because of the risks he took in order to impose himself on the game. “I try to make winners but in doing so I make mistakes,” he explained. “If the chances I take come off then I have winners instead of mistakes.”
In the doubles final, American James Cerretani and Dick Norman of Belgium registered a 6-7, 6-2, 14-12 win against local star and Davis Cup veteran Rik de Voest, who partnered Australian Ashley Fisher.
The result was hard on the De Voest/Fisher combination which had a championship look about it in the second set, which they won emphatically, to force the contest into a tie-breaker. However, it was Cerretani and Norman who walked away with the coveted Kudu horn trophies and a flattering purse of R250 500.
Source: South African Tennis Association