Wednesday, June 29, 2011
|Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates after taking out Switzerland's Roger Federer in the 2011 Wimbledon Championships Men's Quarterfinals.|
"For me it's just amazing," said Tsonga. "The feeling is like maybe beating
[Rafael] Nadal in Roland Garros, so it's just amazing. And for me it will be, for sure, one of the best memories in my career anyway."
"I felt so good on the court. I was quick. I was just perfect today. Every time I was feeling like a dream. Even at two sets down, because I was in the quarter-finals again Roger Federer. The stadium was full. I was not ridiculous. I was in my match. I'm the kind of player who likes these big moments. So I hope I will have some more."
Federer had commanded a 178-0 record when winning the first two sets in a Grand Slam match, and had only previously lost a two-set lead in five-set matches twice before in his career. The first instance came against Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 Davis Cup semi-finals, before David Nalbandia repeated the feat in the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai final.
World No. 19 Tsonga is through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon for the first time, having fallen to Andy Murray in the 2010 quarter-finals at the All England Club. The Frenchman made his major breakthrough at the 2008 Australian Open, where he beat Rafael Nadal to reach his first final before finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic. Two years later he reached the semi-finals in Melbourne for the second time, when he was beaten by Federer in straight sets.
For a place in the final, Tsonga will face World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who ended Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic's dream run with a four-set win.
Tsonga takes a 5-2 career lead into his eighth clash with Djokovic. Their last meeting came in the 2010 Australian Open quarter-finals, when Tsonga prevailed in five sets.
The Le Mans native had advanced to the last eight for the loss of just one set, against Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, but suffered from nerves in the early stages against Federer and paid the price as too many unforced errors saw him surrender his serve in the second game. Federer did not relinquish the lead, saving one break point in the fifth game but was otherwise dominant on serve as he closed out the opener.
Both players settled into a high level in the 47-minute second set, in which neither player was able to break serve. In the subsequent tie-break, Federer seized the initiative, racing to a 5-0 advantage before closing out the seemingly commanding two-set lead with a forehand winner.
The coach-less Tsonga did not let his head go down, though. Instead, the Frenchman stepped in to attack Federer and broke the Swiss’ serve for the first time in the match in the third game after converting his third opportunity with a forehand winner on the run that caught the edge of the line. Federer looked to repair the damage in the latter stages of the set, twice holding a 0/30 advantage on the Tsonga serve in the eighth and 10th games. He was unable to build further, though, and Tsonga’s comeback began as he clinched his third set point with an unreturned serve.
The 12th-seeded Tsonga swiftly built on his momentum, going after a Federer second serve in the third game of the fourth set and breaking down the Swiss’ defences with a blistering forehand winner. Solid on serve, Tsonga coolly went on to level the match with a love service hold in the 10th game.
With Federer reeling, Tsonga took full advantage, bullying the 16-time Grand Slam champion with his booming forehand and drawing a crucial error in the first game of the fifth set to gain an early service break. Federer would earn no chances to regain the break, and Tsonga went on to close out victory in three hours and eight minutes.
"I served just unbelievable," assessed Tsonga. "I feel really confident on this shot. I hope it will continue. It is difficult to play against him because you don't know exactly what he's thinking, what's happening in his head. He has all the time the same behaviour, and it's difficult because he plays so fast. You don't know if he's scared or not, and it's really difficult. I didn't look at him. I was just focused on me, on my serve, and that's it."
Tsonga is the fifth Frenchman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals in the Open Era, following Henri Leconte (1986), Cedric Pioline (1997), Sebastien Grosjean (2003-2004) and Richard Gasquet(2007). Pioline went on to become the only Frenchman in the Open Era to reach the final (l. to Sampras). The last Frenchman to win the title was Yvon Petra in 1946.
"It's always a tough match to lose today," said Federer, who also lost in the quarter-finals last year (l. to Berdych). "But I think Jo played great. Really from start to finish I don't remember seeing a break point after I broke him in the first game. But I was close. I had all my chances. He came up with some good stuff. So it was tough. I'm actually pretty pleased with my performance today. It's kind of hard going out of the tournament that way, but unfortunately it does happen sometimes."
The 29-year-old Swiss was looking to win his first major title since the 2010 Australian Open, and claim a record-tying seventh Wimbledon crown.
“It's the second year running that the talk has been about me equalling Pete's seven Wimbledons. I didn't feel that makes it particularly special. I love equalling any record Pete has made, but it's not the driving force behind my motivation really. I love Pete. It's always nice doing stuff that he did. But at the end of the day I'm trying to win a tournament.”
Photos by © AELTC/J.Buckle
Source: ATP World Tour