France have drawn first blood in tonight’s Hyundai Hopman Cup final after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame a plucky Grzegorz Panfil in the men’s singles at Perth Arena.
Tsonga was the hot favourite to put the French 1-0 up over the No.1 seeded Polish against a player ranked 278 places below him, but it was far from the walkover many expected.
The Frenchman failed to take numerous opportunities to break the serve of the lively left hander, but eventually claimed the match 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Tsonga took just two of 15 break point opportunities with the Pole's first-serve percentage at just 52 per cent.
The 28-year-old Tsonga banged down 16 aces.
Panfil took nine minutes to hold his opening service game in the first set, saving four break points, while Tsonga lost just one point in his first three service games.
The flamboyant world No.10 finally got the breakthrough in the sixth game, breaking Panfil to take a 4-2 lead, before securing the set in 29 minutes.
Panfil also made hard work of his opening service game of the second set, surviving five break points and three deuces before holding.
The Pole then faced a struggle to go ahead 2-1, again conceding break points before eventually taking the game.
The pair traded games until Panfil got an opening on Tsonga’s serve at 4-3, and took it on the first opportunity.
The 26-year-old then held his nerve to claim the set and force it to a third.
A determined Tsonga broke Panfil in the fourth game of the deciding set, racing to a 4-1 lead and maintaining his advantage to continue his unbeaten Hopman Cup run and give the French the best possible start in their attempt to claim the trophy for the first time.
Tsonga said it was an improvement on his three-set victory against Spanish journeyman Daniel De-La Nava Munoz yesterday.
“I am really happy to win and I am really happy to be here,” he said.
“I hope we will win the next match.”
Panfil said he couldn't find the rhythm on his serve, but was happy to have taken a set off one of the best players in the world.
"It was good, especially when you play guys in the top 10," he said.
"Ten days ago I saw Jo on TV and now I just finished the match a few minutes ago, so I’m pretty happy to be here, another good experience."
Tsonga's teammate Alize Cornet will now take on world No.5 Agnieszka Radwanska in the women’s singles.