Friday 6 December 2019

Djokovic wary of Tsonga fireworks as world top spot beckons

John Skilbeck

Novak Djokovic saw semi-final rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga demolish the theory that men's tennis is all about the 'big four' and expects to face more fireworks from the Frenchman today.

A place in the Wimbledon final and the world No 1 ranking are on the line for Djokovic. Both are important to the Serbian, who has regained his composure since the racquet-smashing tantrum during his third-round match.

But he knows Tsonga carries with him plenty of menace, as was demonstrated during his stunning five-set victory over Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic, on the brink of overtaking Rafael Nadal at the top of the men's rankings, began the year with a 41-match winning streak. But Federer halted that run in the semi-finals of the French Open and Djokovic realises Tsonga could cause him more heartbreak when they play first on Centre Court.

"It's not only about the top four," Djokovic said. "There are other players that are able to play great tennis, and Tsonga has proved it. It's all very close at this level, especially in the second week of a Grand Slam."

While Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray have pulled away from the rest at the top of the men's game, the likes of Tsonga are capable of springing surprises.

With his booming serve and supercharged forehand, the Le Mans-born 26-year-old has been threatening to break into the elite group for several years, but injuries have stymied his progress. Tsonga knows Djokovic well, as it was the man from Belgrade who beat him in his own and only Grand Slam final, the Australian Open of 2008.

On that occasion Tsonga was unseeded, at Wimbledon he is the number 12 seed, and against Federer he performed like a number one, coming from two sets down to beat the six-time champion.

"It was an amazing comeback," Djokovic acknowledged. "He's been playing great in the grass-court season so far. We are both baseline players. I think a lot will depend on our serves. I need to serve well because that's something that he's going to do, for sure.

"If he starts missing first serves, then I can have some more chances in the rallies. But, look, I expect a very, very even match."

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