1/23/13 1:12 PM | Ricky Dimon
Roger Federer prevails over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets on Wednesday in Melbourne. Federer will go up against Andy Murray for a spot in the title match.
Roger Federer passed his first serious test of this Australian Open when he outlasted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 in a tense quarterfinal on Wednesday night. Federer needed three hours and 34 minutes to book a blockbuster semifinal showdown with Andy Murray.
The Swiss had a surprisingly tough time holding onto breaks at the beginning of this one. He broke right away for 1-0 in the opening set but two forehand winners from Tsonga and two forehand errors from Federer led to a break back at love in the sixth game. Six holds later--one in which the underdog saved a break point at 4-4--a tiebreaker had to decide the opener.
The 'breaker all boiled down to a single mini-break, which came at the very start when Tsonga netted a backhand. Both players took care of their serves from there, with Federer sealing the deal with service points at 5-4 and 6-4.
Tsonga sprayed 20 unforced errors in the first set but caught fire in the second. Melbourne's No. 7 seed struck four aces without double-faulting, cracked 12 winners to seven mistakes, and he dropped a mere two points in five service games. One break was easily enough for Tsonga to level the match at a set apiece.
Federer was quick to regain momentum after dropping a set for the first time this fortnight. He broke right away for a 2-0 lead in the fourth, racing to 0-30 advantage in the second game before capitalizing on break point when Tsonga dumped a backhand volley in the net. Federer also led 30-0 in his ensuing service game, but a flurry of forehand errors led to his returning the break lead. From there both men held en route to another tiebreaker.
This time one mini-break was nowhere near enough for Federer. The world No. 2 gave back advantages at 2-1 and 4-3, but he righted the ship with a brilliant forehand pass and could do no wrong the rest of the way as he once again prevailed seven points to four.
A relatively bizarre fourth set featured three breaks of serve--all in succession. After the two competitors squandered a combined five break points early, Tsonga finally broke for 4-2, gave it right back for 4-3, then broke yet again for 5-3. A rare comfortable hold came in the ninth game, with the Frenchman capitalizing on set point at 40-30 thanks to a forehand winner.
The match's back-and-forth nature continued in the decider, in which one poor service game ultimately cost Tsonga his upset bid. At 1-2, the world No. 8 suddenly lost miles per hour on his serve and Federer pounced by taking control of rallies from the start and ultimately breaking when Tsonga missed a backhand at 15-40. Tsonga made a brief push by saving four match points at 2-5 and edging ahead 15-30 at 3-5, but Federer won the final three points and converted his first chance with a punctuating volley.
"The whole match was tough," the 17-time slam winner admitted. "Any set could have gone either way. I feel a bit lucky to come through. I feel like we played great tennis. It was a pleasure playing against Jo tonight because he played great, too."
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