INDIAN WELLS, California, March 12 (Reuters) - Eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withstood a fast start by Mardy Fish in the second set to beat the American 7-6 7-6 in a closely contested third-round match at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.
The big-serving Frenchman clinched the first set 7-4 on the tiebreak, then trailed 0-4 in the second as Fish raised his game in front of loud home support at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Both players struggled to hold serve from the one end of the Stadium Court due to dazzling desert sunshine and Tsonga won the next four games to level the score.
However the Frenchman was then broken in the ninth after Fish, on the lunge, conjured a delicately angled backhand drop shot, before Tsonga immediately broke back in the 10th.
The Frenchman swept through the tiebreak 7-0 as the American made four unforced errors, wrapping up victory in just over two hours with a forehand crosscourt winner.
“I‘m just happy to go through,” a breathless Tsonga said courtside after improving his win-loss record this year to 11-3.
”It’s not very easy to play a match against an American here. I hope I will have more support in the next round.
“I was just a bit lucky in that first set and then he played very well for a couple of games, then I played better,” added the Frenchman, who won his 10th ATP World Tour singles title in Marseille last month.
Tsonga booked his place in the last 16 for a fourth time in six appearances at Indian Wells and will next face Canadian Milos Raonic, who battled past Croatia’s Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-3 earlier in the day.
Later on Tuesday, Australian Open champion and top seed Novak Djokovic was scheduled to take on Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov with British world number three Andy Murray to face Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan in an evening match. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)