#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda closed out the opening day of Open Sud de France action with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Monday.
Korda and Tsonga’s clash was one of the most anticipated first-round matches when the Montpellier draw was made, pitting the rising 20-year-old, No. 92 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, against the former World No. 5 on Court Patrice Dominguez.
“It was definitely special [to play Tsonga], I grew up watching him my whole life,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “To get the chance to be able to play against him was an honour for me. I hope he can stay healthy and keep playing tennis… He’s such an incredible entertainer and an incredible person.”
The American came into Montpellier on a tear, previously reaching two finals this year at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com and the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale. Korda lifted his second ATP Challenger Tour title at the latter three weeks ago on French soil.
Tsonga was making his return from a back injury and was contesting his first match since the 2020 Australian Open. The Frenchman won 13 of his 18 ATP Tour titles on hard courts, including the 2019 edition in Montpellier.
“I just tried to stay focussed and take care of my side of the court. I know he hasn’t played tennis in 14 months [or so], so it definitely wasn’t easy for him,” Korda said. “I’m super happy with the way I played.”
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Tsonga showed little signs of rust in a high-quality opening set, narrowly losing out to the in-form American who converted the only break point on offer for a 5-4 lead. Korda matched Tsonga with pace from the baseline, and he dialed up the aggression in the second set as he kept his opponent’s serve under pressure. The American’s return game neutralised Tsonga, and Korda reeled off the last five games of the match to claim victory in an hour and 13 minutes.
Korda will face seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego in the second round. The 25-year-old Italian needed three sets to see off French wild card Hugo Gaston 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1 to advance.
“He has a lot of firepower, so it’s going to be a fun match for sure,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can put on a good show next time we play.”