Tsonga and Ferrer cruise to victory in South Africa | sports | Hindustan Times
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Tsonga and Ferrer cruise to victory in South Africa

sports Updated: Feb 04, 2009 01:24 IST

Big guns Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and David Ferrer of Spain cruised into the second round of the rain-interrupted SA Tennis Open Tuesday.

Top seed Tsonga gradually took control of Brazilian Thiago Alves to record a 6-4, 6-1 centre-court win in 54 minutes at Montecasino entertainment centre in a plush suburb of the South African financial capital.

And after trailing 2-0 in the opening set, second seed Ferrer won 12 games in a row to overcome Israel Davis Cup star Dudi Sela 6-2, 6-0 and set up a clash with German Simon Greul.

There were also wins for Czezh Ivo Minar, Portuguese Frederico Gil, Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli, Belgian Kristof Vliegan and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on courts that were a car park just three months ago.

ATP tournament tennis is back in South Africa after a 14-year absence induced by a lack of funds and the crowds have fallen in love with charismatic Muhammed Ali-lookalike Tsonga.

Fireball serves reaching 225 km/h were the key to success for the 23-year-old Frenchman, who slipped seven places to 14 on the world rankings this week after an Australian Open quarter-finals exit.

Although 110 places below Tsonga, Alves held his own for nine matches before an unforced error by the Brazilian and a superb forehand from the Frenchman brought the first service break and the end of the set.

Tsonga raised his game to break service twice en route to winning five second-set games on the trot and after Alves held service, the winner of two ATP titles wrapped up the set and the match with more superb serving.

"Although the altitude presents some difficulties I believe I can serve well here. It is very important for me to be in South Africa as I have African blood," said the son of a French mother and Congolese father after his win.

Ferrer, at 13 the highest ranked player in the 32-strong field, charged around the court to outclass Sela, a late entry expected to offer stiffer resistance to the sweat-stained Spaniard.

"I was very happy with my game today, but am taking nothing for granted. Simon (Greul) is a good player and I'm not looking beyond our second round showdown," cautioned Ferrer.

Biggest surprise was the elimination South African number one Kevin Anderson, who failed to emulate compatriots and shock first-day winners Rik de Voest and Raven Klaasen as he slumped 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 to Minar.