Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will take on Gael Monfils in an all-French Qatar final. While this will certainly be less anticipated than a Federer-Nadal final, fans will certainly be in for a mouthwatering treat.
Both of these players are widely known for being two of the most passionate players on the tour. And make no mistake, while Federer-Nadal is a tennis fan's dream, Tsonga and Monfils are fan favorites.
Monfils impressively dispatched Rafael Nadal in straight sets, 6-3 6-4, to break a five match win streak against the Spaniard. Monfils has failed to drop a set thus far in Qatar taking out Viktor Troicki, Benjamin Becker, and Rui Machado. None of these opponents are pushovers and thus these results should foster a hefty amount of confidence as Monfils attempts to capture his maiden title of 2012.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's path to the finals has come with significantly more ease. After fighting through a trying opening round against Tunisia's Malek Jaziri (who many may remember from the US Open as he was defeated by Mardy Fish in the second round), Tsonga battled through Flavio Cipolla and Albert Ramos before being graced with a walkover due to Roger Federer's withdrawing as a result of an aggravated back injury.
This match will be solely decided by the aggression level of Monfils. If Monfils decides he wants to play a highly defensive game and grind through Tsonga, he will quickly find out that particular strategy won't work for the simple reason that Tsonga does not grind, on any surface whatsoever.
Monfils needs to look to dictate from the center of the court, step in front of the baseline, and beat Tsonga at his own game. The defensive tools will assuredly be there for Monfils, but if Monfils sticks to counter-punching and lets Tsonga do all the talking, he is almost guaranteeing himself a runner-up finish barring a Tsonga debacle. In supplement, it is absolutely imperative that Monfils, if at all possible, stays away from the lethal Tsonga forehand. Keeping it away from Tsonga's forehand will not only expose his vulnerable backhand but it will provide Monfils with a greater chance to attack and approach the net on balls lacking depth.
Who Will Win?
Tsonga leads their head to head 2-1 with the most recent meeting coming in 2010 in Montpellier, where Monfils claimed his lone victory against Jo-Willie in three sets.
I am fairly confident in saying that Gael Monfils will be hoisting the trophy in Qatar. If he is able to sustain the pure aggression and supreme level of play exhibited against Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, Monfils should be able to get the best of Tsonga. I suspect Tsonga may be a bit rusty considering he got a free ticket through the semifinals and is lacking play. Tsonga 's game has also been inconsistent throughout the week although he did demonstrate brilliant form against Albert Ramos in the semifinals.
Let me clarify and say that I would not be surprised if Tsonga wins. Jo-Willie has the potential to blitz any opponent on any given day. The most prominent example of this is when Tsonga ripped Nadal to shreds in the 2008 Australian Open Semifinals.
I have absolutely zero reservations in coining this match as a blockbuster. Two of the most electric, intense shot makers looking to make their mark on the 2012 season should provide an incredible spectacle in the first final of the year.