• Australian Open, Day 10

Federer tames Tsonga to book Murray clash

ESPN staff
January 23, 2013

Roger Federer came up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in sizzling form, but had enough quality to secure a five-set win and book an Australian Open semi-final meeting with Andy Murray.

Federer and Tsonga have had some great battles down the years, notably the epic at Wimbledon in 2011 when Tsonga fought back from two sets down to win in five.

The Melbourne crowd were treated to another five sets of quality, but on this occasion it was Federer who proved the master in a 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 win.

Federer worked a break early and Tsonga looked uncomfortable, clutching his back on a couple of occasions after scampering along the baseline, but his mindset was kept calm by the sight of Federer leaking errors.

Tsonga had the chance to get back on serve when he crafted a break point with a stunning crosscourt forehand and he took it when getting the better of a power battle from the baseline.

The set went to a breaker and Federer produced his best play of the set to move ahead. He worked a set point with a serve-drive volley combination and wrapped it up in clinical fashion.

Tsonga forced errors from Federer in the first set and the pattern continued in the second. The key moment arrived in the seventh game as Tsonga broke through and he showed no sign of nerves when serving out, as he sent down a booming 135mph serve.

Federer appeared to restore a position of authority when breaking at the start of the third set, but a sloppy service game allowed Tsonga to break back immediately.

Solid service holds were traded before the Swiss master came under pressure in the 11th game. He was 0-30 down and in trouble on the backhand wing, but somehow fired an arrow down the line and reacted with a roar of delight.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave everything but it wasn't enough © AP

Federer sprang from his chair sensing a break but Tsonga found a couple of big serves to take the set into a breaker. Federer worked the first mini-break when a booming backhand forced Tsonga into netting a volley. But errors were still coming from the Federer racket and he inexplicably netted a low drive volley, when the sensible play would have been to allow the ball to bounce.

But for all the errors, brilliance was still bubbling under the surface and Federer drilled a forehand passing shot for a clean winner. A backhand down the line prompted another yell of emotion and set up set point - which he took when Tsonga could not make a play on a tough, low backhand volley.

Murray could well have been lounging in front of his TV wishing for a five-set marathon for his semi-final opponent. If that was what he wanted, it was granted to him as Tsonga caught fire in the fourth.

Tsonga broke in the sixth game, hitting with awesome power. Federer, though, wanted it done as quickly as possible and broke back immediately.

Tsonga continued to thump the ball and his movement around the court was as good as at any time in the match. He chased down ball after ball and, importantly, sent it back over the net with interest. The No. 7 seed hit a stunning 15 winners and it ensured the crowd on Rod Laver Arena would be treated to a fifth set.

Both players began the fifth set in impressive fashion on serve. Tsonga powered down three aces in his opening game, Federer held to love in his second.

Tsonga was the first to twitch in the fifth set, being broken in the fourth game after a couple of sloppy plays - notably a low percentage stroke on break point when he went for a power backhand up the line that hit the top of the net and failed to go over.

Federer found his stride towards the end of the fifth, crafting winner after winner. Tsonga fended off a second break of the set in the seventh game and despite the tension, had the good grace to share a joke with his opponent. Federer hit a stunning drop shot that resulted in Tsonga, having failed to track the ball down, ending up on the opposite side of the court. As he walked back, he jokingly shaped to hit the ball at Federer - prompting a smirk from both players and a round of applause from the crowd.

The No. 2 seed quickly regained his composure following the light-hearted exchange and held serve to move within one game of victory. Tsonga looked tired, but he saved four match points and held serve in the longest game of the match.

It asked Federer to serve out and although Tsonga came at him, he found first serves and closed out the contest at the fifth attempt.

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