Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beats Rafael Nadal in three sets to go through

By David OrnsteinBBC Sport at the O2 Arena
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had previously only beaten Rafa Nadal twice in eight attempts

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lit up the ATP World Tour Finals with a stunning display of late-night aggression to eliminate Rafael Nadal and storm into the knockout stage.

The spectacular Frenchman served notice of the threat many feel he can pose to the big four in 2012, ending Nadal's hopes in brutal fashion at London's O2 Arena.

Tsonga beat the 10-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 in two hours and 42 minutes, finishing with his 48th winner just before 2300 GMT.

As Nadal heads off to contest the Davis Cup final with Spain, Tsonga can look forward to a place in Saturday's semi-finals line-up.

"I just played so good," said Tsonga.

"It was difficult in the second set but I started well in the third and I just played unbelievable."

It was a performance the will remind many of the player who reached the 2008 Australian Open final and

Nadal may have won five of their six previous hard-court encounters but it is more than a year since the Spaniard won a title on the surface, whereas Tsonga has picked up two and reached another final in the past nine weeks alone.

His game is suited to the fast conditions and that was illustrated from the outset as he dispatched winners and volleys almost at will to place Nadal under pressure.

While Tsonga was untroubled in all of his first-set service games, Nadal lost at least the first point in five of his six and the Spaniard had to save two break points in game four.

Nadal finally hit his stride with a love hold for 6-6, a last-ditch backhand pass at the end of a gruelling rally prompting Tsonga to raise his racquet in appreciation.

The sixth seed was far less generous in the tie-break, though, and a sublime forehand pass followed by three inch-perfect volleys put him in control of the match.

Tsonga was clearly relishing his moment in the spotlight but Nadal kept calm, hitting with greater depth and consistency, and improved his service statistics as Tsonga's plummeted.

The world number two was never behind in the second set and after surviving an anxious moment to move 5-4 ahead, he looked to pounce in game 10.

Tsonga scrambled for survival, rescuing three set points with resounding overheads, only for his forehand to malfunction on the fourth to take it into a decider.

The crowd were now entranced by the battle, with several celebrities spotted sitting on the edges of their seats, and rather surprisingly it was Tsonga who responded best.

He breached Nadal's defences in game three when the Majorcan netted a backhand, consolidated with a ruthless love hold and eked out the double-break for 5-2 thanks to another Nadal error.

Such was Tsonga's magnificent shotmaking and athleticism that he was even drawing applause from his opponent's support box, but he cracked when serving for the win and three double-faults kept Nadal in contention.

Yet by this stage Nadal seemed exhausted and when he was broken to love with an awesome inside-out forehand, Tsonga was able to bounce around the court in celebration.

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