Thursday, 24 January 2013

Saving the best quarter final till last

Roger Federer is destined to have great battles with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga these days, and the matches they play at Grand Slam tournaments seem to be the ones they produce on an extra special level.

Based on the form of the two in this year's Open, the quarter final on Wednesday night promised another beauty.  We were not disappointed.

Tsonga started the show with a few nervous moments and Federer doesn't mind capitalising on those so he stole what Tsonga believed should have been his - the 1-0 lead.  Roger offered Jo-Wilfried chances to break back but he was too slow to commit, the offer was withdrawn and the games were 3-1 in Federer's favour.

Already some of the factors in the match were becoming apparent.  Federer would be spending a great deal of time using his forehand to dictate rallies as they lengthened, pushing Tsonga as wide as possible for the open court or down the line winner.  Tsonga would attack with his ground strokes, trusting his ability to accelerate the racquet speed within a rally and not lose control - he would also try to lob Federer and that policy would need to be reviewed judging by its initial lack of success.

The entertainment value added factor was very high for both but Tsonga had the edge, but that rings true in most of his matches.  In the sixth game Tsonga came from the clouds with some winners to set up break point again on the Federer serve, until tonight a rock solid fortress.  Roger relented and he found himself at 3-3.

"Shot of the night" was a tag that the crowd was assigning to many strokes as the evening progressed, occasionally even "shot of the tournament".  This was the match Federer had to have if he was to be properly prepared for the final few days, although he would claim that an easy 3 setter works better.

Tonight he still may receive the 3 set match but it would be anything but simple.  A Federer error made a break point in Tsonga's fifth service game redundant and the pair exchanged series after series of wonderful shots in readiness for what clearly would be a vital tie break.

Tsonga thought he had won the first point with a big serve, but a challenge showed it to be a fault and the point ultimately went to Federer following the second serve.  This hurt the seventh seed who instead of taking the lead on serve was now behind, and stayed that way throughout the break, Federer playing it very professionally.
With great relief, for the third match in succession, Roger Federer won a tie break and time would tell how decisive this one might be.

The second set was tight again on the scoreboard but it was clearly Tsonga's set.  He won virtually everything on his own serve, and only the brilliance of Federer to stay in touch once the rallies were underway kept his serve safe for the most part.

However in the seventh game it was the overall pressure of Tsonga that drove Federer to the edge and the second seed played a couple of bad shots to lose serve and put Jo-Wilfried in the drivers seat.  Happily grabbing the keys, Tsonga tore off into the distance picking up the second set 6-4 on his way and leaving a disturbed Roger Federer behind with just the first set to comfort him.

Nothing to choose between the two once more as the third set threatened to become a repeat of the first with not much damage done to either serve.  Yes each player dropped serve in the second and third games but that was net nothing and odd things tend to occur at front ends of sets.

Great stroke play, still dominated off each of their forehands, and Roger finding space on a few occasions where space didn't exist to exquisitely pass Tsonga.  Of course it had to be a tiebreak and for this one Roger volunteered to open with a serve he had been designing for a few months.  Released to the public tonight for the first time it successfully won a point, and plenty of applause to follow.

Tsonga put himself into a tangle again, not yet able to handle these tie break thingamabobs as easily as the tiebreak master.  Never looking likely, Jo-Wilfried lost the set 6-7 and now required five sets to reach the semi final.

Another brilliant set of tennis from Tsonga in the fourth was salivating stuff for the crowd but for Jo-Wilfried still too close for comfort in the scorebook. 

This set featured break points in over half the games played - the third game saw Tsonga save a trailer load before holding,  then Federer save a couple in the next.

Tsonga for once appeared to have a handle on the Federer serve and he used it to pick it up and smash it in the 6th game.  4-2 the lead.
Federer bounced back in the following game, breaking the Tsonga serve , seemingly against the run of play.

For the fourth set, that was Federer's final hurrah, because a tremendous rally, signed off with a super backhand volley from the Tsonga racquet, also signed over the eighth service game to Tsonga and Co. together with a Swiss bank account.

Jo-Wilfried served out that phase of the match to have the scoreline read 6-7 6-4 6-7 6-3

Roger Federer, in the one set sprint to determine the quarter final result, had too much for even Jo-Wilfried to handle.  With the serve back to near impregnable, and his relaxed shot making back in a moment of national crisis,  Roger cruised through the final set, breaking Tsonga in the fourth game.  Jo-Wilfried saved many match points in his final service game and made Roger serve for the match.

Federer triumped 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3 in a terrific quarter final full of several twists and overflowing with hotshots.

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