Tsonga wins match and third set 25-23

KYLIE MACLELLAN
Last updated 08:26 01/08/2012
France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates after defeating Canada's Milos Raonic at the London Olympics, winning the third set 25-23.
Reuters
FINALLY: France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates after defeating Canada's Milos Raonic at the London Olympics, winning the third set 25-23.

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France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga finally overcame Canadian Milos Raonic 6-3 3-6 25-23 in the longest three-set match in Olympic tennis history to reach the final 16 of the men's singles.

Fifth seed Tsonga, who still found the energy to skip around the court kissing his shirt in celebration after the near four-hour dual, had two opportunities to wrap it up sooner but gutsy Milos hung on with a huge serve each time.

The second-round match had been interrupted by a lengthy rain delay at one set all, with Tsonga leading the third 2-1. When the pair returned to court, the games went with serve.

''He served unbelievable, it's really difficult. But I was strong tonight and I am really happy to go through,'' said a relieved Tsonga after the match, which also broke the Olympic record for the most number of games in a set.

The game appeared set to go on all evening as the umpire read out the 24-23 score with a sigh, but a string of errors by Raonic, forced to serve to stay in the match each time, gave Tsonga a 0-40 lead and his best chance to snatch victory.

Snatch it he did at 15-40, with a drop shot which bounced twice before Raonic managed to returned it, although Tsonga finished off with a smash just to be sure.

The gripping final rally drew a sharp intake of breath from the crowd at one point as the Frenchman slipped before reaching the ball to flip it over his opponent's head.

At 66 games long, the clash beat the previous longest-match record of 63, in which Canada's Carling Bassett-Seguso and Jill Hetherington beat Argentina's Mercedes Paz and Gabriela Sabatini in the first round doubles at Seoul 1988, the Games that marked the return of tennis after a 64-year break.

''I'm on the wrong part of Olympic history. It's nice to be somewhere but hopefully I can change that and put my name on the right part,'' said 21-year-old Raonic, who is ranked 25 in the world.

''I felt like I played really well for most of the match and I just let it slip away from me at the end.''

Tsonga, who will face Spain's Feliciano Lopez on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals, had been due to return to court later on Tuesday in the men's doubles, but with play running behind schedule due to rain, the match was postponed.

''(The win was) good for my confidence, but not really good for my body,'' he said.

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- Reuters

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