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Djokovic and Tsonga forced to dig deep

Jo Wilfried Tsonga practises ahead of the Olympics at Wimbledon.
by Alexandra Willis
Sunday 29 July 2012

Few expected Fabio Fognini and Thomas Bellucci to be on the list of potential giant-killers on grass at the Olympics. But the Italian and Brazilian proved that an Olympics can be just as unpredictable as any other tournament, pushing second seed Novak Djokovic, and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, through two three-set thrillers on the second day of the Olympic tennis event. 

Djokovic and Fognini, beginning on a sunny No.1 Court, albeit slightly late due to some unseasonally heavy showers in the Wimbledon area, played in rather topsy turvy fashion, the Serb yelling at himself angrily as he struggled to contain an all-white Fognini. The one pushing the other continually, the first set went to a tie-break, only to be halted at 7-7 for more rain. 

When the players finally made it back onto the court several hours later, it was Fognini who won the two points necessary to claim the opening set. But that merely proved to be a red rag to Djokovic's bull, the world No.2 thundering through the next two sets for the loss of just four games as Fognini slipped and slid all over No.1 Court. 

At about the same time, Tsonga was throwing his burly frame all over Centre Court as he tried to contain the firepower of Bellucci. But it was the Brazilian, cheered on by a small but very loud pocket of fans, who snaffled the first set 7-5 in the tie-break, a frown plastered over Tsonga's face instead of his usual big grin. 

Having fallen on the hand, or finger, he injured at Queen's, he looked a step off his usual pace, but the Frenchman did enough, securing a break in each set, to see off the Brazilian eventually, despite squandering three match points at 5-3 in the third. 

Giving the Centre Court crowd his usual bounding celebratory dance, Tsonga looked relieved more than anything, a sentiment that Djokovic echoed. 

"It's a start," Djokovic said. "I haven't played an official match since Wimbledon so it took me a set and a half to realy get into the rhythm and obviously the rain delay affected the game and I wasn't sharp enough after the rain delay. 

"He made some great winners and he was a set up. Then I had to be raelly focused for each game, try to break him and the second and third [sets] were really going my way."

The Serb, who won the bronze singles medal in Beijing in 2008, will next face either Andy Roddick (USA) or Martin Klizan (SVK), while Tsonga will play either Milos Raonic (CAN) or Tatsuma Ito (JPN). 

"It's an incredible feeling," Djokovic said about competing in the Olympic tennis. "It's really an honour and a privilege to be part of the Olympic Games which happen every four years although we wish we would be part of the Olympic Village and feel that atmosphere beside the best athletes in the world."

The London 2012 Olympic tennis is taking place at Wimbledon. Visit the ITF Olympics site for full scores, draws and the London 2012 site for video content, venue and schedule information.


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