Men’s Quarter Finals
Djokovic v Tsonga:
Tsonga leads the head to heads 6-5 although Djokovic has won all 3 of their matches in the last 12 months. Their most recent match was last month on the Rome clay which Djokovic won 7-5, 6-1.
Both players needed 5 sets to reach this stage. Djokovic looked like he was going out to Italian Seppi when he was 2 sets down and just wasn’t able to produce the form that has taken him to the top. However he showed some of the qualities that have seen his game improve in the last couple of years not least an incredible self belief.
Tsonga must have thought history was repeating itself as he took a 2 set lead against Wawrinka but saw the Swiss payer pull back to 2-2 just as he had done at last year’s French Open. In 2011 Wawrinka completed the comeback to win the match but despite giving up a 4-2 lead in the 5th Tsonga was able to break Wawrinka to take it 6-4.
The fiercely patriotic crowd will be all over this match as they were in the Gasquet/Murray game. Unfortunately they scared Gasquet to death whereas Murray is used to being slated by his home fans so another country’s fans screaming abuse at him was like water off a duck’s back and if anything gave him a boost.
At times against Wawrinka Tsonga seemed to be feeling the pressure from the fans’ level of expectation. I think if he gets into a position to beat Djokovic other than the normal tension he will have to deal with the crowd’s intense desire to see a Frenchman lift the French Open crown.
Djokovic has survived the scare of the Seppi match and his self belief is boosted even more. He knows how to beat Tsonga and even if he goes behind the intensity from the crowd will suit the world number 1 as he thrives on a battle.
Tsonga will start strongly as he did in Rome but I feel whoever wins the first set it gives an advantage to Djokovic over 5 sets. If Djokovic takes the set Tsonga will crumble. If Tsonga takes the set the crowd goes wild after every point and Djokovic will step up a gear or two as the pressure builds on Tsonga’s shoulders.
The first couple of sets should be great to watch but probably a one way match after that.
Djokovic to win in 3 or 4 sets.
Update: A much better performance than I expected. The match started well for Djokovic with 2 breaks in the first set. He broke serve in the first game of the second and it looked like being a very quick match. However Tsonga broke back in the 8th game and then broke again to level the match.
In the third Tsonga was again broken early but this time broke straight back in the next game. A tight set ended with Djokovic being broken and Tsonga was 2 sets to 1 up.
No breaks of serve in the 4th although with Djokovic serveing at 5-6 Tsonga had 2 match points. They weren’t taken so the set went into a tie break. Tsonga had another 2 match points at 6-4 but Djokovic saved both and went on to take the tie break 8-6.
Tsonga’s spirit was broken as was his serve ( twice) in the final set.
Djokovic won 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1.
Federer v Del Potro:
Federer leads the head to heads 11-2 and has won their last 5 matches. Fed leads 2-0 on clay. Both were in May 2009 with one being in the French Open which went to 5 sets.
Everyone except maybe Nadal and Ferrer have looked beatable in this tournament. Federer has dropped a set in each of his last 3 matches against players he was expected to beat in straight sets.
Del Potro has also dropped 3 sets so far with only Cilic being despatched in 3. It feels like everyone is just waiting for his knee to finally give out but he keeps going. As Berdych was on the way to take the second set 6-1 Del Potro seemed to be struggling and the market reaction in Berdych’s favour was remarkable.
If this comes down to a mental/tactical battle then there is only 1 winner. Federer isn’t quite at his best and has said he considered not playing in Rome due to a back problem but the lure of being 2nd seed at the French made him think again.
I expect Federer to make Del Potro move around to put stress on his knee. Federer has been playing within himself so far but won’t be able to do so today. He will try to play smarter rather than play harder.
Del Potro only knows one way to play. Hard. He was being very aggressive in the last 2 sets against Berdych. Maybe the huge ground strokes were to get the job done quickly as long rallies weren’t good for the injury.
If Federer is able to step up to somehing like his usual level then he can win this easily. However there are too many unanswered questions prior to this match and we will only know the answers once the game is under way.
I would hope that Del Potro comes out fighting and keeps the first set close or even takes it. If he loses the opening set he may go for broke with his shots as I don’t really believe he thinks he can beat Federer over 5 sets this week. If he was fit then he would have a great chance against a man nursing some degree of back problem.
Federer starts at 1.38 but I will be waiting for 1.60 in the opening set which also gives me chance to assess how they are playing on the day.
Federer to win in 4 sets.
Update: Both men started with a solid hold in their first service game. After that Federer struggled on his own serve and was broken twice as Del potro took a 4-1 lead. Federer din’t seem able to cope with the huge ground strokes and serve of his opponent in those early games. Federer managed to break back to 2-4 but when he served at 3-5 he was again broken himself.
In the second set everyone expected Federer to come back and it looked like it was going to plan when he broke for a 3-2 lead. However in the very next game he was broken himself. No more breaks in that set and it went to a tie break which Del Potro took.
Federer had never lost a Grand Slam match from 2 sets down and Del Potro had never lost a Grand Slam match from 2 sets up. Something had to give!
I the third set Del Potro seemed to be having problems. He wasn’t moving as well as he had been. Federer broke him twice in that set and 3 times in the 4th set to level at 2-2.
Del Potro kept fighting but all the pressure was coming on his service games. A single break in the 4th game was enough to give Federer the win.
Federer won 3-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.