Receiving a wild card, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made a winning start in Halle, beating a compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 18 minutes. After a tight loss to Milos Raonic in Stuttgart, Tsonga was more efficient against the young Frenchman, facing the only break point and delivering one break in each set to move over the finish line first, entering the second round where he will face the nine-time Halle champion and the top seed Roger Federer.
After reaching the semi-final at Roland Garros, Roger took down John Millman 7-6, 6-3 in 77 minutes, struggling to find the pace on the return in the opener before a more comfortable set number two, delivering the 64th victory in 71 matches in Halle.
On Thursday, Tsonga and Federer are about to play for the 18th time, the first since Monte Carlo 2016, battling for the place in the quarter-final. Roger has won 11 encounters over the Frenchman but not the last two, seeking the first victory since Monte Carlo five years ago in their first grass clash in eight years.
That was one of the matches of 2011 season, with Federer wasting two sets to love advantage in thrilling 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win for Tsonga in just over three hours that had propelled him into the last four. The Swiss won ten points more than the Frenchman but that wasn't enough to carry him over the finish line, creating one break point in the entire encounter and failing to keep his serve safe until the tie break in sets three, four and five.
Happy with the way he competed against Paire, Tsonga is ready for another chapter in his rivalry with Roger, saying it is always special to face the great rival. "I am happy to have won because Benoit is a dangerous player.
It is always difficult to dominate against him, you always feel like the game can change at any moment. It is always something special to play Roger," Tsonga said.