Sunday, June 26, 2011
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Day 6 of 2011 Wimbledon Championships.
He breezed his way to another contented win over the Chilean Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 and those who like their tennis quick will have relished this encounter as much as the No.12 seed himself. The entire joust was done in an economical 84 minutes.
In fact, parts of this match were so brisk, they verged on the bizarre. Neither of these two players is a chap to linger over personal pre-service rituals, with the result that the first set lasted 22 minutes, and it wasn't as if it was a whitewash. It was just that rallies on Tsonga's serve were a bit of a rarity and, besides, he had the necessary break in the bag at 3-1.
For those watching on No.2 Court, the constant risk was that they might sneeze at the wrong moment and find that they had missed some crucial passage of play. Glancing away for 10 seconds could leave spectators wondering how they missed half the set.
Tsonga, whose best Wimbledon was last year when he reached the quarter-finals, arrived at SW19 this fortnight with mixed form on grass. On the one hand, he brought the encouragement of being runner-up to Andy Murray at Queen's earlier this month; on the other, he followed it by losing to Radek Stepanek in the second round at Eastbourne.
As for 30-year-old Gonzalez, this was his first Grand Slam tournament since retiring in the first round of last autumn's US Open with a knee injury, itself caused by a previous hip injury dating back a further year. His ranking coming into Wimbledon was 478, and he made it into the main draw on a protected ranking because of this prolonged period out through injury. He did well to reach the third round, beating the No.22 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first round.
At the start of the second set, Tsonga had the Chilean racing all over the court. He easily commanded three break points for 2-1 and converted the first as a matter of course. The next game was not atypical of the entire match. Tsonga served three aces, made one unforced error, and then made it a quartet of aces for good measure.
Umpire Fergus Murphy barely had time to announce the score in his trademark musical delivery before it was out of date and he was on to the next. At 5-3, Tsonga had two openings to break again and take the set, but in the event was obliged to cool his heels and serve it out.
Gonzalez had his chances, not least three opportunities to break early in the third set. But each time Tsonga dug his way out of the hole. Instead it was the Frenchman who broke in the next game, courtesy of a wild Gonzalez forehand at the net.
It was the same pattern as the set before, but this time when Tsonga had the chance to break again, it was to secure the win, and he took it. Even Gonzalez smiled back at Tsonga at the net.
Photos by Getty Images