Tsonga shocks Rafael Nadal

Melbourne, January 24:

Second-ranked Rafael Nadal was dominated in stunning fashion by unheralded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who reached the Australian Open finals with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory on Thursday.

Nadal played well against 38th-ranked Tsonga, who had never gone beyond the fourth round in his four previous Grand Slams. But the Frenchman was virtually untouchable, smashing 17 aces against one of the best serve returners in the game. He now will faces the winner of Friday’s semi-final between top-ranked Roger Federer and No 3 Novak Djokovic.

While Nadal is popular, Tsonga has been adopted by the Melbourne Park fans for his go-for-broke style and outgoing personality. He frequently had them standing and cheering with his mix of power and an amazingly deft net game.

On the women’s side, fourth-ranked Ana Ivanovic staged a dramatic comeback, losing the first eight games before ousting No 9 Daniela Hantuchova 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach her second Grand Slam final. She will meet No 5 Maria Sharapova, who was sharp again in overwhelming Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1. Third-seeded Jankovic saw any hopes for her own rally ended by back pain.

Ivanovic, who beat Venus Williams in the last round, won only nine points in the first set. When Ivanovic finally held for her first game while down 0-2 in the second set, the crowd erupted in cheers of sympathetic relief.

The small victory provided just what she needed — a jolt of confidence. She broke twice to level the match. Hantuchova fended off a break point while serving at 4-4 in the third set and set herself up to save another with a drop volley.

Ivanovic scrambled to keep it in play but was out of court when Hantuchova netted an easy volley.