Roger Federer Needs Another Level Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the French Open
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is responsible for one of the most shocking defeats of Roger Federer’s career. Federer was cruising towards the Wimbledon semifinals in 2011, one year after his shocking quarterfinal exit to Tomas Berdych. Federer had been dominant until that point, only losing a set when Mikhail Youzhny managed to pull out a tiebreak victory.
And this match against Tsonga was no different than the rest of the tournament. Federer earned a break in the first set and gutted out a tough tiebreak in the second. But from there, it was all Tsonga. Tsonga’s serve his a different level and Federer couldn’t match it. Tsonga did not get broken again that entire match. Meanwhile, he broke Federer once in each of the final three sets to take the match and shockingly send Federer to his first loss in a Grand Slam in which he had a 2 set lead.
Tsonga continued on a tear that summer, beating Federer in Montreal as well. He did not get broken until the second set of that match, going a stunning five entire sets against Federer without being broken.
Unfortunately for Tsonga, his serve has not been that dominant consistently after that summer and he has yet to beat Federer again since those two matches. He met Federer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year in one of the tightest matches in that entire tournament.
Now, Tsonga has a chance at revenge. He has played better than Federer this tournament; that much is clear. His serve has been broken twice this entire tournament and never since the second round. Federer has had trouble with Tsonga’s serve in the best. He will have to figure out a way to get into Tsonga’s service games this match and quickly, otherwise he could be staring into an early hole.
Tsonga’s return has been exemplary this tournament. He has gotten himself into rallies and once he has had a chance has never hesitated to pull the trigger on huge shots. On paper, it’s entirely possible that he should be the favorite in this match. He can power the ball through the clay court in an almost Robin Soderling-like fashion and Federer will find it difficult to defend.
But we can never count Federer out. He still is the better overall player than Tsonga. Yes, he showed some weaknesses in his 5-set win over Gilles Simon. But Federer does have the ability to pick his tennis up to a level that just about no one in the world can match. After his loss to Tsonga at Wimbledon 2 years ago, he was criticized by journalists and other players for not seeming to care enough. He didn’t get energized; he didn’t look like he was fighting to find energy in that match. In his victory over Simon last round he kept trying to energize himself but really only took over the match when Simon’s level fell. He is going to need to find a different gear for this match that he had last round; otherwise, this match will entirely rest on Tsonga’s racket. And, if this tournament so far is something to judge by, Tsonga’s racket is not a good place for opponents to place their trust.