Jo-Wilfried Tsonga captured his first ATP Tour title in more than 15 months on Sunday, beating countryman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 6-2 at the Open Sud de France.
The 33-year-old, who last lifted a trophy in Antwerp (d. Schwartzman) in October 2017, dropped just four points behind his first serve (27/31) to triumph in 73 minutes. Tsonga missed seven months of the 2018 ATP Tour season following his semi-final retirement in Montpellier last year, ungergoing left knee surgery in April.
"I am very happy with the way I played this week," said Tsonga. "It was an amazing moment for me to win here in Montpellier... I have made many efforts to come back [here], so for me it is a good reward and I hope I will be able to continue playing at this level."
Ranked No. 210 in the ATP Rankings, Tsonga is the lowest-ranked ATP Tour titlist since Pablo Andujar lifted the Grand Prix Hassan II trophy in Marrakech 10 months ago. Tsonga improves to 17-12 in tour-level championship matches and extends his unbeaten FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Herbert to three matches.
In the second straight all-French final in Montpellier, Tsonga becomes the seventh French winner in the tournament's nine-year history. The 17-time tour-level titlist joins countrymen Gael Monfils (2010, '14), Richard Gasquet (2013, '15-'16) and Lucas Pouille (2018) on the list of home champions.
In a tight opening set, Tsonga earned the only two break points at 4-4. Herbert stuck to his gameplan, serving and volleying to deny Tsonga on his first opportunity. But Tsonga read the play on his second break point, guiding a forehand return winner up the line to earn the break.
After serving out the first set to love after 37 minutes, Tsonga began to find his range on his return. Herbert's continued attack proved no match for Tsonga, who drilled backhand returns at his opponent's laces to earn two breaks of serve. Serving at 5-2, the wild card once again held serve to love, overpowering Herbert to claim victory.
Seventh-seeded Herbert, competing in his third ATP Tour singles final, was aiming to lift his first singles trophy. The Frenchman, who is projected to rise to a career-high No. 36 in the ATP Rankings on 11 February, also finished as runner-up at Winston-Salem (l. to Anderson) in 2015 and Shenzhen (l. to Nishioka) last year. Last month, Herbert and partner Nicolas Mahut became the eighth doubles team in history to complete the Career Grand Slam, beating Henri Kontinen and John Peers in the Australian Open final.
"It was a tough match against Jo," said Herbert. "I knew it was going to be a hard match and he was all over me for the whole final. He was just the better player today. I am happy about my week, I played five matches at a high level and I am looking forward to the rest of season. [I will] try to keep up the good work."