It’s France v Croatia in Metz
on Sunday afternoon as Ivan Ljubicic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battle it out for
what will be a first title of the season for both men.
Week So Far
For Tsonga, a comfortable win over Rodrigues was followed by a
poor start against compatriot Nicolas Mahut. However, after dropping the first
set, Tsonga powered on to win the next two comfortably and book himself a place
in the semi-finals against Dolgopolov. Ukrainian, Dolgopolov can be a tricky
customer and has been on top of his game in recent months, but Tsonga came
through in straight sets to ensure his spot in Sunday’s final, and with the
Paris Masters and a possible Tour Finals event just around the corner, Tsonga will
be going all out for this one.
32-year-old Ivan Ljubicic came into this event as the No.4 seed
and hasn’t had the toughest path through. Wins over Renavand, Sijsling, and
Muller, without the loss of a set, have ensured the Croat his place in the
final, but there’s a huge step-up in class from the likes of those players , to
the World No.10 and top seed for the event, Tsonga.
The pair have met on only five occasions previously and it’s the
veteran, Ljubicic who holds a slender 3-2 advantage. Two of Ljubicic’s three
wins did however come on clay courts and Tsonga actually holds a 2-1 lead on
hard courts. The pair have met previously at an indoor event in Rotterdam, earlier this
year, and Tsonga won out in straight sets, needing a tie-break to clinch it in
A Frenchman has won this event in each of the last two years. Gael
Monfils triumphed in 2009, whilst it was Giles Simon who went all the way in
2010. Jo-Wilfired Tsonga would love to become the third home player to win the
event in as many years and he knows the points will move him very close to Gael
Monfils as he bids to end the year as the French No.1 and possibly snatch a
place in the London Finals.
Ivan Ljubicic loves playing on the indoor courts and has won six
titles indoors, including his win here in Metz
back in 2005. Couple that with nine losing finals indoor over his career and
it’s easy to see how the Croat has found himself in another final here.
Tsonga himself has recorded three of his five titles on indoor
hard courts, including the Paris Masters back in 2008 and he was a beaten
finalist this year at the Rotterdam
It’s a tough call. Tsonga won’t be scared by the big serving
Croat. In addition to beating him indoors already in 2011, Tsonga is coming
into this final with some solid form behind him. A couple of huge wins over
Roger Federer in the summer combined with a decent run and a victory over
current US No.1, Mardy Fish at the US Open, have left the 26-year-old Frenchman
high on confidence. As a big Ambassador for this event, he’d love to win it and
as mentioned, it’ll do his points tally no harm at all as we move into a
crucial part of the year.
The problem with Ivan Ljubicic is you just never can tell when he
is going to put in the kind of performance that saw him reach a career high of
No.3 in the World.
Ljubicic’s last tournament win cam in the Masters 1000 event in Indian
Wells in 2010. He came in to that event as a 150/1 outsider in the tennis odds but went on to put
in some unbelievable performances, knocking out Djokovic and Nadal along the
way, before seeing off Roddick in the final. Even at 32, when he’s hot and his
serve is working, he can still be almost untouchable.
Having not beaten any really big names so far this week, it’s
difficult to say if Ljubicic is on one of his hot streaks and the real
consistency across 2011 has come from Tsonga. With home backing and plenty to
play for, I expect Tsonga to see off the Croat in straight sets and add a first
title of the year to some impressive individual victories.
Tips and free picks
Jo-Wilfired Tsonga to win the match – 1/3 – Victor Chandler
Tsong to win 2-0 – 10/11 – Paddy Power
First set score 7-6 (Tsonga)
- 9/2 – William Hill