After losing to David Nalbandian in Paris 2007, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer returned to the French capital a year later to chase the title. The world’s leading due left empty-handed again, as Nadal retired against Nikolay Davydenko after the first set in the quarters, while Roger gave James Blake a walkover in the same round due to a back injury.
In the battle of 2006 and 2007 Paris champions, David Nalbandian defeated Nikolay Davydenko in three sets to set up the final against the home star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who ousted James Blake after an excellent performance.
The Frenchman made a breakthrough run in 2007 and was ready for some big goals a year later, reaching the Australian Open final and winning the maiden ATP title in Bangkok. Equipped with a booming serve and explosive attacking game, Jo-Wilfried has been one of the most dangerous indoor players on the Tour ever since, delivering the biggest title in front of the home crowd.
Tsonga dethroned Nalbandian 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours to become the first French winner in Bercy since 2001 and Sebastian Grosjean and also the last one. The Frenchman ousted Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and James Blake in back-to-back matches and didn’t miss a chance to go all the way and lift the trophy after that.
He fended off eight out of nine break points in five different service games and converted two out of four chances on the return to bring the encounter home and start a massive celebration. Jo-Wilfried blasted 37 service winners against 21 from David and dominated with a forehand to hit almost 50 winners overall, taming his shots nicely to control the number of unforced errors and upend the rival in the crucial moments.
The shortest rallies up to four strokes decided the winner, as Tsonga had the edge thanks to his initial shot and the first groundstroke, staying in touch in the mid-range exchanges and avoiding lengthy points that would have drawn more errors from him.
In 2008, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga claimed the last French title in Paris Bercy.
Also, Jo-Wilfried qualified for the Masters Cup in Shanghai with this victory, making the title even more special. The crowd favorite held at love in the opening game and broke Nalbandian’s serve in the next one after a costly double fault from the Argentine.
David couldn’t do much on the return in the third game, trailing 3-0 when Tsonga painted a forehand winner after just nine minutes. Jo-Wilfried had to save a break chance in the seventh game, erasing it with a volley winner and hitting another to close it and move 5-2 up.
Serving for the set in the ninth game, Tsonga landed another unreturned serve to take the opener 6-3 in 32 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two. David saved a break point at the beginning of the second set and played better after that, creating three chances at 4-3 that could have pushed him in front for the first time.
Carried by momentum, Tsonga repelled them all with winners and closed the game with an ace for 4-4, serving for staying in the set two games later. He fell 40-0 down again and there wasn’t a way back for him, netting an easy forehand on the first set point to hand it to Nalbandian.
The Frenchman regrouped and broke the Argentine in the third game after a backhand error from David, who had to pull the break back as soon as possible if he wanted to defend the crown. Jo-Wilfried fended off a break opportunity in the sixth game with an ace and moved 5-3 up with a backhand down the line winner, making another big step towards the title.
Serving for it at 5-4, Tsonga faced an ultimate task after falling 40-0 down, proving he was the man on the mission that week and repelling them all with brave winners before blasting an ace down the T line for a match point.
He converted it after a forced error from David, throwing a racquet in joy and starting a celebration with his friends and family, who were there to support him during the entire week. Two years earlier, Tsonga had been ranked outside the top-200, standing as a proud Masters 1000 champion now in front of his partisan Parisian crowd.