Tsonga blitzes Blake to reach quarters

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/t/tsonga.jpg' class='caption'> Jo-Wilfried Tsonga destroyed American number two James Blake 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to reach the quarter-finals of Australian Open.

Updated: January 26, 2009 15:27 IST
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France's fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga destroyed American number two James Blake 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to reach the quarter-finals as his Australian Open love affair continued on Monday.

Tsonga, who reached his first tour final here last year, didn't face a break point until the third set and dominated the tie-break to wrap it up in two hours and 23 minutes.

"I think I'm playing better than last year," he said. "I'm stronger maybe in my head, and it helps a lot." An early break was enough for the first set and Tsonga applied the same strategy in the second, following up three deep backhands with a cute volley on set point for a 2-0 lead.

After an intermission for Australia Day fireworks, Blake earned his first break points of the match and converted with a penetrating winner that left Tsonga flat-footed.

But he was foiled twice when serving for the set and Tsonga broke for 4-5 with a brilliantly anticipated volley and then an inch-perfect forehand.

Blake, looking increasingly frustrated, was soon behind in an error-strewn tie-break and Tsonga pummeled some big forehands for match point before sealing it with an ace.

"This year it's a bit different because I have more experience now and I'm playing better. I hope I'll get a better result," Tsonga said.

Tsonga, 23, ousted Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal on his way to last year's final where he was beaten by Serbian world number three Novak Djokovic.

He went on to win his first titles in Bangkok and Paris despite missing three months with knee surgery, finishing the year ranked sixth.

Tsonga missed much of 2005 and 2006 with injuries and pulled out of this month's Sydney International with a back problem.

Blake, 29, reached the quarter-finals last but is yet to reach a Grand Slam semis in a career interrupted by a serious neck injury and illness in 2004.

Tsonga will next face Spain's Fernando Verdasco, who shocked Andy Murray earlier to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

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