Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, shocked the world of tennis by achieving two feats: one rare; and one never before witnessed on any tennis court. The first was beating Roger Federer in the Wimbledon 2011 Men’s Singles Quarter Final; the second was the manner of his victory, in coming back from two sets to love down to record a 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-4 win over the six times champion of Wimbledon.
Federer, in all his years at the top of tennis, has never been beaten when two sets up in a five set match. Make that had never been beaten, for that is precisely what happened today.
Records are there to be broken, though, after an hour or so of tennis, the only record tennis fans on Centre Court at Wimbledon were thinking of was Pete Sampras’ seven titles, which Federer looked on course to threaten.
Tsonga was broken by Federer in a nervous first game of the match, before Roger Federer did what he does best on the grass at Centre Court: closed out the set.
In the second set, we saw the Frenchman up his service game significantly. While he rarely threatened to secure a break, he looked confident when it was he tossing the ball, and the second set went to a breaker. Tsonga seemed keyed up for this chance. Perhaps he was overcooked, as he hit his first attempted volleyed winner just long before Federer raced away to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker, before lifting the second set soon after, much to Tsonga’s chagrin. Tsonga was shaking his head miserably even when winning back a couple of tiebreaker points as he knew Federer would take one of the five set points he had handed to him, which he did.
However, in the third set, Tsonga’s serve remained impressively powerful, and his ground strokes equally so. More and more, when rallies began, it was he, not Federer, who was getting on top and dictating the pace. It was not long before the Frenchman had secured his first break of the match, which he held to lift the third set 6-4.
The fourth set took a remarkably similar pattern, with Tsonga’s break coming after as below-par a Federer service game as fans saw all day: Federer producing uncharacteristic errors and failing to put away half chances when they came along. That these errors were “unforced” may display in the match statistics, but that is not the true story of the match: they were in many ways forced by Tsonga’s constant bombardment. The powerful hitting Frenchman simply refused to give up on any ball this afternoon, and, once in charge, he refused to allow nerves to creep into his service game. He lifted the fourth set 6-4 to tie the match at two sets all.
In the fifth, deciding set, Tsonga took the break at the first opportunity, before holding his first service game relatively easily. Federer’s serve was rarely threatened, as he took some games to love to keep up the pressure on the Frenchman, but Tsonga kept responding, and, when he did make errors on his first serve, Federer appeared to be just a little tired after having been worked over so consistently with Tsonga’s power hitting for four and a half gruelling sets already.
Federer had one or two half chances to break back, which, if at his usual best, he might have expected to take. However, he soon found himself staring down the barrel, with Tsonga 5-4 up and serving for the match. When the pressure had first been on in the very beginning of this five set match, Tsonga had shown he was not impervious to big-stage nerves, and dropped his serve, so would he choke at this hurdle? Not a bit of it: he served a love game, before falling to the ground to the sound of loud applause. In coming from two sets down to beat Roger Federer, Tsonga had broken new ground, and achieved something no tennis player before him ever had.
More importantly for this gifted player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in defeating Roger Federer, took one step closer to the second Grand Slam Final his ability has always hinted he was capable of achieving.
In the sort of form he displayed today, Tsonga looks to be a match for anyone he plays this week. He will need to be: next up Tsonga faces Novak Djokovic in the Semi-Final of Wimbledon 2011.