Federer Down, Murray Up

Wimbledon 2011
By Hiland Doolittle, June 29th, 2011

Jo Willy Tsonga accomplished the unthinkable. Roger Federer had never lost a Grand Slam match when leading 2 sets to none. In such matches, his career record was 178 – 0. After Jo Willy performed his quarterfinal magic, the Swiss is now 178 – 1 in majors after winning the first two sets.

After Roger won the second set tiebreaker, Tsonga appeared doomed as Federer used his efficient game to offset daring rushes and net play by the Frenchman. In the second set, neither player could break serve and when Federer raced to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker it seemed the Frenchman would break down.

With his back against the wall, the 12th seed lifted his play. After allowing a break in the first set, Tsonga gave Federer no other opportunities to break serve. Meanwhile, Tsonga capitalized on 3 of 9 break chances. The fact that he did not permit even one break chance in the last three sets was the key to the win.

The 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win marks Tsonga’s first Wimbledon semi-final but he has now reached Grand Slam semifinals four times. Tsonga has played the best tennis of his career in the last two months. He will next meet 2nd seed Novak Djokovic. The Frenchman has won 5 of the seven matches played against Djokovic.

Djokovic had to adjust to the play of youngster Bernard Tomic of Australia. Tomic employed an interesting strategy against the favored Djokovic. Determined not to go head on head with Djokovic, the Aussie varied the pace and kept the ball at Novak in the middle of the court along the baseline. During a stretch of the first set and for the entire second set, Tomic controlled the tempo of the match. He rode the second set victory to a 3-1 lead in the third set. But, Djokovic came alive against his practice partner and rolled of seven straight games.

After losing a service game in the third set, Bernard’s game plan broke down and he changed his style of play, trying to match Djokovic blow-for-blow. That is difficult for all the tour players and at the conclusion of the match, Tomic had committed 41 unforced errors compared to 27 by Djokovic. The Aussie did hit 4 more winners than the Serb. Tomic converted 3 of 5 break chances compared to 6 of 15 for Djokovic.

The semifinal match with Tsonga is more than an entrée to the finals for Novak. If he wins his semifinal match, he will become the new top ranked player on tour, replacing Nadal regardless of the final match victor.

After top seed Rafa Nadal downed the last American in the field, Mardy Fish, in four sets, he setup another semifinal contest with 4th ranked Andy Murray. Nadal extended his Wimbledon winning streak to 19 straight matches. As the defending champion, he will be favored but not by the vocal fans in attendance.

Nadal’s 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory demonstrated his ability to control play. Fish tried to implement an aggressive serve and volley offense, but Rafa had answers. Fish, whose serve had carried him to the quarterfinals, did not have his best serving day.

Although his first serve was effective, he only won 40 percent of his second serves. To beat Nadal, Murray will need to land a high percentage of first serves and take chances on his second serves. Nadal has an 11-4 won-lost record against the Scotsman.

Andy Murray is the only quarterfinal victor to win in straight sets. The determined Scot did not blink while on Centre Court against upset master Feliciano Lopez, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Murray posted impressive numbers with 13 aces, 11 unforced errors and 40 outright winners.

Murray only allowed Lopez two break point opportunities. Lopez could not convert either chance. Murray broke once in each set converting 3 of 10 opportunities. Murray has been sharp for the last month, including his play in Rome and Paris. Still in search of his first Grand Slam title, he is well positioned to spring an upset against Nadal.

In big matches in the past, Murray has come up short. He seems to tone down his game at a time when he should dial it up a notch. The home crowd will probably spur his motivation.


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