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Federer pushed to five sets against Tsonga

Roger Federer completes the men's Australian Open semi-final line-up after overcoming Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

PT2M9S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2d88c 620 349

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.

‘‘I didn’t play any leading up tournaments, so that’s exactly maybe what I needed for the semis. Then again, I may be totally wrong. Time will tell,’’ Federer said.

Tough fight: Roger Federer was pushed to five sets by Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an unrelenting contest on Wednesday night.

Tough fight: Roger Federer was pushed to five sets by Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an unrelenting contest on Wednesday night. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

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. Federer after the match was dismissive of the reported pique by the Murray camp that he had been disrespected and disadvantaged by not yet playing at night on centre court while all of Federer’s matches were there and in the evening.‘‘

It wasn’t scorching heat and stuff. If every day would have been 35 degrees it would have been a different story, but it wasn’t,’’ he said.

‘‘I think we know the reasons why that happens, because of my draw more than not. It’s hard to juggle all these things. I don’t think it’s an advantage, to be quite honestly. I don’t think it’s a big deal.’’

Victoria Azarenka during her victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Click for more photos

Australian Open Day 10 - Womens quarterfinal

Victoria Azarenka during her victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Photo: Pat Scala

Indeed Federer was envious of Murray heading into the semi-final irrespective of where and when the matches had been played.

‘‘I would probably rather be in his shoes. Has he lost a set? I don’t think he has. That’s exactly how you want to approach a semi-final match, in my opinion,’’ he said adding that Murray’s new aggressive game which saw shorter points and more assertiveness on the court made him a different proposition than in the past and perhaps explained his breakthrough to win his first grand slam and the Olympic gold medal.

Mild evening 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 essentially rely on the tools in their own games and prevail. 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 do 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.