Escape Artists: Djokovic and Federer Through After Five-Setters
I'd be screaming into the fist mic, too, if I fended off 4 match points to advance to the French Open semifinals.
World number 1 Novak Djokovic had plenty to roar about in his thrilling, five-set instant classic against crowd favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1.
Djokovic came out strong, taking the first set in 21 minutes and going up, 4-2, in the second, before Tsonga woke up from his on court nap and remembered that he was playing in his home country's presitious Slam. Time to make the donuts.
And he did. Jo-Willy started hitting winners, and coming to net more. Tsonga's got great feel at net, and for the match, he won 65% of his net opportunities to Djokovic's 58%. He took the 2nd and 3rd sets, and was poised to take everything in the tenth game of the 4th set, when Djokovic dug deep.
Here's how The New York Times' Christopher Clarey described it:
One point from elimination at 4-5, 15-40, in the fourth set, Djokovic transformed a bold backhand passing shot from Tsonga into a crisp volley winner. Down, 4-5, 30-40, he hit a big first serve and forehand winner.
Down, 5-6, 30-40, in his next service game, he hit a second serve, kept the ball deep and was rewarded with a forehand error from Tsonga. Down, 5-6, ad-out, he pushed forward again and repelled Tsonga’s fourth match point with an overhead.
Djokovic won the 4th set tiebreak, leaving Tsonga tugging at his Mohawk and muttering to himself. A little more than a half hour later, the Frenchman was hiding under his towel and crying while Djokovic was awash in relief.
Tsonga, according to the Times, said he felt "fatigue, frustraion, disappointment."
You go a bit through all the feelings. You want to break all your rackets. You want to shout. You want to cry. You want to laugh, saying, ‘This has to be a joke, how did I manage to lose this match?’ You want to wake up."
He'll wake up tomorrow, remembering he played the best tennis of his career, yet blew 4 chances for a historic win against a guy who's trying to be the first man since 1969 to take all four Slam championships in a row.
Tsonga said it best: "That's tennis."
Novak Djokovic now faces 16-time Slam winner Roger Federer, in a rematch of their 2011 French Open semifinal. Fed is 14-11 against the Djoker, but the Serb has won their last two meetings, in the US Open semifinal last year and the semi in Rome last month.
Federer did his own Houdini act, wiggling out of a 2-set hole against Juan Martin del Potro, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3. Del Potro seemed hampered by a balky left knee that has been bothering him since the beginning of the tournament, but he told reporters later his knee wasn't a factor. He said it was his serve.
"If I serve bad against Federer or the top guys, you don't have too many chance to win points," said del Po.
I don't know what he was talking about. His first serve percentage was 59% to Fed's 58%. He won 74% of points when he got his first serve in, while Roger collected 69%. But Federer had a lot of easy points on his serve, racking up 11 aces to del Po's 6. And Federer hit 59 winners to JMdP's measly 33.
Del Potro said he's just happy to have made it this deep into the French Open, and to take some sets off of the Greatest of All Time -- something he hasn't done in two years.
"So when I win sets, when I win games against big players, against those who have a better ranking than mine, there's always something to learn," he said.
There is positive and negative, and I have to work on the negative aspects."