Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori have set up a crowd-pleasing fourth-round clash at the Australian Open, winning through on a rain-soaked day five at Melbourne Park.
Tsonga outdid compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert in three tight sets, while Nishikori overcame a wrist injury and Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four.
Tsonga had too much firepower for his lowly-ranked compatriot, winning 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4) in 132 minutes.
The battle of two Frenchmen was one of contrasting styles; Tsonga brought his dynamic baseline game and Herbert, one of just two qualifiers left in the draw, countered from the net.
At his best, Herbert disarmed the 2008 Australian Open finalist with poise, but too often his volleys found the net or the wrong side of the baseline.
Tsonga had too many tricks for the 24-year-old, and proved it to save a set point in the second.
The ninth seed raced back to chase Herbert’s lob, spinning and placing a cross-court backhand past his compatriot at the net, wheeling away to celebrating wildly.
Nishikori’s 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and 48 minutes was not without drama.
After edging a tight first set, Nishikori needed a medical time-out to treat his wrist.
The Japanese No.1 wouldn’t reveal whether he thought it could him the second set to the powerful Spaniard, but was grateful to recover and pull through.
“It was tough mentally,” Nishikori said.
“He was serving really well and I couldn’t return well.
“I started to concentrate again … lucky I didn’t go five sets, for my body it’s great.”
Their fourth-round meeting is a replay of last year’s French Open quarter-final epic, won in five sets by Tsonga.
Nishikori said he was looking forward to the rematch.
“It was a really tough loss for me, so I hope I can get revenge here,” he said.
“He’s gonna be tough … but I have been playing good and (have) a lot of confidence coming up, so it’s gonna be a good match.”
Tsonga agreed that the fans would be
“Every time we’ve played, it was a good fight,” he said.
“It’s going to be good I think. For spectators, for sure.
“I’m ready to battle.”
David Goffin also won through to a last 16 meeting with Roger Federer on Friday.
Goffin claimed a 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win over precociously talented world No.20 Dominic Thiem in two hours and 58 minutes.
Thiem’s mental fade-outs cost him but he was applauded for a second set act of sportsmanship.
The Austrian conceded a point he was entitled to replay after Goffin correctly challenged a call.
Goffin said he was delighted to triumph.
“I’m really happy with the way I managed the match emotionally because it’s always hard to play against a friend,” he said.
Frenchman Gilles Simon was untroubled and waltzed into the round of 16 by defeating Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-2 6-1 in quick time.
Simon awaits either top seed Novak Djokovic or Italian Andreas Seppi in the fourth round.
Play on outside courts was postponed until after 5:30pm due to persistent rain.