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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earns showdown with Novak Djokovic

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga prepares a forehand stroke
by Dan Imhoff
Friday 27 June 2014

Relieved to have finished a match within a day after his first two rounds spilled over four days, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can take a breather ahead of his fourth-round showdown with top seed Novak Djokovic.

The two-time former Wimbledon semi-finalist looked more like the fleet-footed Frenchman of old in his 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 dismissal of Taiwanese qualifier Jimmy Wang, with his biggest concern coming not from the world No.147 across the net, but from a woman whose face he innocently struck with a wayward serve.

A shy and affable character, big Jo – languishing at No.14 in the world after a torrid start to the year – sprang into his token thumb-wagging leaping twirl after the 1h 43min min result, but it was a post-match gesture of a different kind which won him more fans out on No.3 Court.

He promptly raced over to the woman he accidentally clocked on serve earlier to present her with his Wimbledon towel. Not a bad end to the day for both.

In his first-round clash with Austrian lefty Jurgen Melzer, Tsonga was forced to return a day later to serve out the five-set victory after rain and fading light forced the pair off court. His second round marathon with American Sam Querrey also went the distance, 14-12 in the Frenchman’s favour after that too was dragged out over two days due to a lack of daylight hours left in the day.

Having come through three rounds of qualifying Wang had upset No.17 seed Mikhail Youzhny in the previous round.

But against Tsonga, he was up against it from the outset. The former world No.5 was far more dominant on serve, thumping 15 aces to his opponent’s three and winning 87 per cent of points when he landed his first delivery. He finished with 53 winners to just 13 unforced errors.

With a break in hand in the opening set, Tsonga stepped around Wang’s second serve to tee off on a forehand down the line. It would secure the double break for 5-2 and a straight-forward hold meant he had the first set in the bag after 24 minutes.

A break to begin the second set again gave the Frenchman the buffer to go for broke and when he ripped a backhand pass crosscourt from two metres behind the baseline he pulled away for 4-1.

Wang would save a set point on serve and another two with the set on Tsonga’s racket, but when his forehand clipped the net, he surrendered the second set after 31 minutes.

For the Taiwanese player – a former Wimbledon Boys’ Singles semi-finalist – the third round of a major was unfamiliar territory. After dropping the first two sets meekly, he was making more of a first of it in the third.

He fended off four break points to hold for 3-2 and kept his nose in front until 5-5 where a miscued overhead smash proved the turning point for the set. Tsonga would require a second break point to make the breakthrough, but a forehand on the run from the big Frenchman edged him to 6-5 before he would close the encounter out with an ace.

Spectators will at least be safer from Tsonga’s serves on a bigger show court for his next match against Djokovic.  He will be looking to finish on the right side of that match in under two days.

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