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A tennis master class by Novak Djokovic underlined why he has been installed as the No.1 seed at the 2014 Championships as he strode into the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(5) win over the luckless Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in one hour 52 minutes under the roof of Centre Court.
Djokovic played his finest two sets of the tournament to set up his 11th straight defeat of the Frenchman and even though Tsonga upped his own game in a dramatic and riveting third set to take it into a tie-break it was not enough to deny a rampant Djokovic.
It has been two years since Tsonga had even the consolation of winning a set against the Serb and in the French Open earlier this month he collected a mere six games in a fourth round loss. But if he was downhearted it didn’t show, even though he was immediately battling to stem the Djokovic tide of winners.
A service break in the sixth game was enough to swing the first set Djokovic’s way after just 25 minutes and with Tsonga unable even to get close to a break point the second set went pretty much the same way. Another break put Djokovic 4-3 ahead and, needing only to hold serve twice, he did just that without even conceding a point. With the match less than an hour old another rout along the lines of Roland Garros loomed for Tsonga but he was lifted by the support of a Centre Court audience who were longing for a closer contest.
To his credit Tsonga, never a particularly defensive player, opted for full frontal assault, only to find that the harder he hit the ball the faster it seemed to come back at him. Still he persisted bravely and urged on by the crowd he found a new level of commitment.
Djokovic was clearly nettled by the partisan element among the spectators and in the fifth game Tsonga conjured his first break points of the match. It was a challenge Djokovic relished, saving the first with his 10th ace of the match and then pumping his fist and letting out a roar as an under-pressure Tsonga lobbed long.
Tsonga even exhausted his number of Hawk-Eye appeals in trying to derail the Djokovic bandwagon but it seemed his only hope of extending the match into a fourth set would be to produce something extra special in the tie-break. He certainly tried hard enough, serving up three aces, but when he faced match point he was left flat-footed by a stunning backhand service return from the No.1 seed.
Even then the drama wasn’t quite over. The umpire Carlos Ramos overruled the linesman’s decision that the shot was good and there were a few awkward moments before the big screen replay confirmed that the shot had indeed been a match-winning one.
Djokovic played full tribute to Tsonga. “He is a very good player, especially on the grass and he knows how to play on the big stage. To be able to win against him in straight sets on a surface that suits him is a great result.
“I was very happy with my mental consistency and the variety of my game made it a very good match for me. I think I did really well from the start to the end, especially in the third set where he elevated his level.”
Djokovic said he sympathised with the players whose schedule has been delayed by the bad weather and that while it was a tradition of Wimbledon not to play on the middle Sunday and a tradition that should be respected. “But there are some rules that are better changed for the benefit of the players.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."