Kei Nishikori rallied from two sets down against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but his bid to become the first Japanese man to reach the semifinals of the French Open in 82 years fell just short of the mark.
Tsonga eventually came through to win the quarterfinal 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 on Roland Garros’ center court on Tuesday.
The fifth-seeded Nishikori, who had won his four previous matches in straight sets, was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jiro Satoh, who got to the semifinals of the French Open in 1931 and 1933.
He certainly didn’t get off to a great start.
Nishikori was trailing 6-1, 5-2 when the match was interrupted for about 40 minutes after a sheet of metal paneling detached from a scoreboard in strong winds and crashed onto center court spectators below, injuring one person.
”I was a little bit lost. … I was doing everything wrong,” said Nishikori of the opening sets.
When he came back on court, Nishikori was a different player. Having become the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the U.S. Open last year, Nishikori broke immediately before Tsonga managed to seal the set.
He then put Tsonga firmly on the back foot, taking the next two sets. But his French opponent — who hit 10 aces and 44 winners – proved stronger in the decider with some excellent service games and a break.
”I’m so happy, it was tough. He made quite a comeback, but I kept my head up,” said Tsonga, who will be up against eighth-seeded Stan Wawrinka in his second semifinal in three years in Paris.