By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – It’s never easy for close friends and French countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils to play against each other. Sunday was no exception.
Tsonga, playing in his first tournament after sitting out the past three months injured, needed to win to continue this comeback that started with a win Saturday.
Monfils, back from a three-week lay-off himself due to injury, wanted to build momentum. And, of course, he wanted to top Tsonga for just the second time in six tries.
Monfils did just that, winning 6-4, 7-6 (4) on grandstand court to reach the fourth round of the Miami Open for the third time in nine appearances.
“It’s not easy, but we practiced together a bit before, so I knew he was ready for me,” said Monfils, adding that the windy conditions benefitted his game and he was able to take advantage. “He showed he was ready. I’m sad because I end his comeback [at Miami Open], but he showed some good signs that he’s back and ready to shine again.”
Tsonga, ranked 13th in the world and seeded 11th at this tournament, was aiming to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time since 2009.
After the match, Tsonga and Monfils, No. 19 in the world and the 17th seed here, high-fived twice at the net, and then posed together as fans snapped pictures.
“Tough match,” Tsonga said. “But I enjoyed playing today. It was great for me after such a long stop. …When you stop like this, you need competition. For me, it was important to play two matches. Maybe three was too much. Unfortunately I lost, but there is maybe something positive in that. I will take my comeback step by step and try to find my best level.”