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Federer outlasts Tsonga to set up Murray showdown

 FIRST there was Serena, but Roger refused to follow. After Serena Williams collapsed out of the women's draw regular top seed transmission returned with Roger Federer fighting bitterly, but elegantly of course, to win through to a tenth consecutive Australian Open semi final.

The Swiss master was drawn into a grim tussle with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who played with a belief and discipline to push the former world No. 1 to five agonisingly tight sets, with a only a breath in each deciding, each before prevailing 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours 34 minutes.

Federer is now through to his 33rd grand slam semi-final, confronting the man who beat him to gold at the Olympic Games, Andy Murray. Gallingly for the Scotsman, Federer was able to enjoy another night of comfortable conditions under the open roof in contrast to the freckly Scot's tournament-long baking mid-afternoon slip slop slap time slots.

That said, the mild weather was the only thing obliging about this match as Federer was drawn into an unrelenting contest by the muscular play of the French seventh seed.

Through to the final set with Federer up a break a net cord fell kindly for Federer but it drew Tsonga all the way past the net and into Federer's court. Federer waved recognition for the random act of kindness (to him) prompting Tsonga to mock hitting him with his racquet. He knew he deserved better but it seemed that was how his night was going to fall.

Oddly it did not begin that way, Federer had politely commenced the quarter-final with a break of serve in the opening game and so, in gentlemanly fashion, informed opponent and crowd alike how things might proceed. It was one of the few things Roger got wrong, for this was a dogged tussle.


Tsonga's serve would not be so summarily dismissed in future. Indeed in the second set, which Tsonga won, Federer was able to take just two points from his serve. It was an astonishing degree of dominance and one that plainly would be hard to sustain, but in large part Tsonga did.

The third set, like the first, required a tie break. When Federer did manage to retrieve Tsonga's serve, jump into points and claim a break the powerful Frenchman adroitly counterpunched and won breaks back. This was no insignificant matter for leading into this match Federer had not lost his serve in the tournament and had only conceded one break point.

The issue for players such as Tsonga, and Thomas Berdych the night earlier against Novak Djokovic, is that when they play all but the top four players they can essentialy rely on the tools in their own games and prevail. Time after time.

But then they confront the top echelon and their regular play is not enough, they have to change up. Berdych tried to punch holes through Djokovic and could manage it for a set.

Tsonga needed to advance in the court to advance in the match. He played magnificently and will today wonder where and how he lost. At the top level the difference is often not so wide yet can still be so far.


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