TOKYO — Second-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed four match points to beat Gael Monfils 6-3, 7-6 (8) on Monday to advance to the second round of the Japan Open.
Tsonga served 11 aces and didn't drop service to improve his record to four wins in five tour-level matches against his French compatriot. After Tsonga got the decisive break of the first set in the second game, the second set went with serve until the tiebreaker.
Monfils rallied from a 5-1 deficit to level the tiebreaker at 5-5, then fought off three match points before Tsonga sealed the victory.
"I started well and played offensively," Tsonga said. "I know this is the only way for me to beat Gael."
Tsonga began the year strongly, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the semifinals at the French Open. After finishing runner-up to Andy Murray at Queen's, however, Tsonga was forced to retire with a knee injury in the second round at Wimbledon and did not enter the U.S. Open.
"I have not played much in the last two or three months, so it will take me time to adjust," said Tsonga, adding that he was cramping near the end of the match.
In other first-round action, sixth-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain beat German qualifier Benjamin Becker 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) and Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine defeated Daniel Brands of Germany 6-3, 6-1.
Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina was scheduled to play Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in a first-round match on Tuesday, when defending champion Kei Nishikori was due to meet Jurgen Melzer of Austria.