By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s first match in more than three months was an encouraging effort for the Frenchman.
Coming off an injury to his right forearm, the 11th-seeded Tsonga beat American Tim Smyczek 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on stadium court to advance to the third round of the 2015 Miami Open.
“I didn't expect to play my best tennis today ever, but I'm happy the way I managed my match,” said Tsonga, the 13th ranked men’s player in the world. “I played pretty solid. I just had a little hole in the second set. But it's normal when you didn't play for a couple of months now. I hope it's going to be better and better, the first match was something good for me.”
Tsonga didn’t pick up a racket for two-plus months before starting to hit balls again about three weeks ago. He said he focused on improving his fitness, which was tested by Saturday’s match. After battling Smyczek for nearly two hours, he said there were no issues with his forearm.
“My arm is feeling better,” Tsonga said. “I’m really happy with that. I hope it’s going to continue.”
Tsonga and Smyczek were scheduled to play the final match of the night session Friday, but their contest was one of a dozen postponed because of heavy rain.
Tsonga took control Saturday after breaking Smyczek’s serve at 3-3 in the opening set. However, Smyczek, ranked No. 75, rallied to extend the match.
“It was a little bit about me in the second set because I gave him maybe free points,” Tsonga said. “But anyway, he’s a good fighter. He’s running everywhere. It’s not easy to [win] points, especially when there is a lot of wind like this. You cannot play close to the line. That’s why it was difficult today.”
Tsonga, who had a first-round bye as one of the seeded players, will face fellow countryman and good friend Gael Monfils in the third round. Monfils rallied Saturday to beat Filip Krajinovic 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
“It’s always special to play a good friend,” Tsonga said. Then with a smile he added, “But we both know on the court there is no friends.”