Saturday 17 March 2018

Tsonga jumping for joy at prospect of Murray clash

Oliver Brown

Dancing like a dervish for his disciples on Court No 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was in jubilant mood as he secured his place in a second straight Wimbledon semi-final, but recognised how quickly he would lose his tag as the public favourite against Andy Murray tomorrow.

"Normally the crowd cheer for him," the Frenchman said. "But I have a chance. I mean, maybe it is a less of a chance than for him, but I will try to take it."

The stakes tomorrow could hardly be higher, for both men. While Murray seeks to exorcise the ghost of Bunny Austin in becoming the first British man to reach a Wimbledon singles final since 1938, Tsonga is chasing history of his own as he tries to succeed Yvon Petra as the first Frenchman to win the Challenge Cup in 66 years.

"I would complete something good," he said, puffing out his cheeks at the scale of the potential accomplishment. "Since I was a kid, I dreamt about playing in matches like this. It's going to be something big."

The fifth seed was in convincing form yesterday as he ground down a resilient Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets, ultimately prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 in to set up the tantalising last-four confrontation with Murray, who won a tight four-setter against David Ferrer.

His first confrontation with the Scot on grass was staged as long ago as 2004, when Murray was just 17, at an indoor Challenger event in Nottingham.

"We played indoors finally because of the good weather," Tsonga said, drily.

But the Murray supremacy has since been firmly established between the pair on this surface, first by a four-set triumph here at the All-England Club in 2010 and then by a three-set victory in last year's final at Queen's, where Tsonga earned a match point.

What unnerves Tsonga about the prospect of facing Murray is the sheer strength of the world

No 4's returning game. "Andy's one of the guys I don't like to play, because he's returning really well and can make some great passing shots," the 28-year-old said. "He's quick and all the time he's on the ball, so it's tough for me."

The pressure that Murray will endure tomorrow in front of a rapt and partisan Centre Court crowd is not lost on Tsonga. After all, he held an opportunity of his own to reach the last four of his home grand slam only last month, but squandered four match points against Novak Djokovic in their French Open quarter-final.

"It's difficult for Andy because he's alone," he said. "All the eyes are on him."

But as he surveyed the view as a Wimbledon semi-finalist once more, he indicated his relish at what was to come. "Before I was not consistent enough in my head," he said, acknowledging a flakiness in long matches that he has since erased by dispatching both Kohlschreiber and Mardy Fish in close contests this week.

"Many times I lost concentration, but now I have turned my head, in the good sense. This is another chance for me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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