By Dave Gertler
(August 8, 2014) TORONTO – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is returning to the form that has previously delivered him to two semifinals at the Rogers Cup, and on Friday, he exacted revenge on the man who stopped him in his path when he first got there in 2009. After a surprising 6-2, 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic yesterday in Toronto, Tsonga has followed it up with his first win over Andy Murray since the Frenchman’s famous run to the final of the Australian Open in 2008.
Firing 17 aces at Murray throughout the match, including three in the first game, Tsonga let his serve do the talking from the outset. “I’m just stronger,” said the world No.15 after his victory, “During practice I worked a lot on my legs, and for sure I’m stronger on my legs. I think it helped me a lot for my serve because I can push a little bit more, so it give me more angle.” His increased leg-strength allowed Tsonga to maintain a first-service speed well above 200km/h throughout the two-hour, 18-minute match on Stadium Court.
Tsonga would only lose ten points in total behind his first serve the whole match, Murray realizing early that he would need to return at a high level, saying, “The beginning of the match he served extremely well. He served a lot of aces. You know, I had to play around my return position quite a lot, and I started to get into more service games the second and third set.”
After Tsonga sealed the first-set tie-break 7-5 with a booming ace, Murray found himself with the advantage in the second set, holding twice before breaking for 3-2. Although he was immediately broken back to love, the world No.9 would regain his edge, breaking Tsonga to love for a 6-4 margin in the second set.
“Tennis and sport really can change a lot from one day to the next,” said Murray, who had enjoyed an eight-match winning streak against Tsonga until today, “You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, which maybe he did in Miami and I played a good match, that can happen. He’s a fantastic athlete,” Murray added, “When his game is on, he’s very tough to beat.”
Tsonga would prevail in a 45-minute deciding set of high-quality tennis mixed in with some frustrating errors from both players. Ultimately, he would serve out the final set 6-4, serving three aces and a double fault. “I just stayed focused,” said the 29-year-old Frenchman, who has made the interesting fashion choice this week of tucking in his shirt, “Tried to be a little bit more aggressive because I was a little bit flat after losing the second set. He gave me one or two points he didn’t give me since the start of the second set, and, you know, then I went back and I won it.”
Tsonga will play Grigor Dimitrov next his third career Rogers Cup semifinal. Other winning quarterfinals included Roger Federer and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .