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Wimbledon 2010: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Andy Murray

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By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

1858: This from Sir Muzzington as he strolls into the locker-room: "It was a really tough first few sets. He was going for his shots on both sides. I came up with one or two good passes in the second tie-break - he was hitting big shots and I just had to hang in there. The semi will be a great amtch - we're two-all in Slams, and I'm looking forward to it."

1855: Unadulterated delight around the old arena, a golden light filling the far corner of the court, the patrons on their feet and applauding overhead - it was nervous at times, it was tight, but Murray found a way to win. Nadal, semi-finals, Friday afternoon.

Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 2-6 Murray
Here we go. Big serve, reply... long. Better from Tsongs, forcing Murray deep and into the backhand error. 15-15. Slapaway backhand winner cross-court - 30-15. Dropper to bring Tsonga in - flicked up, up and beyond the baseline. Two match points - ah yes, absolute soozy of a forehand, flashing cross court - he's there! Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 2-5 Murray *
Casual from Tsongs, too casual - backhand volley into the net, and we're poised at 30-30. First serve... fault. Second serve... long. Match point, match point.... First serve... fault. Second serve... oh, blistering forehand from the shattered Frenchman, and we'll teeter at deuce. Lovely dashing backhand put-away for TsongAd, and - ooh la! crunching overhead to delay what I'd say was the inevitable if I wasn't so scared of messing everything up. What's that? The video over this is showing the Hairy Bikers? You serious?* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 1-5 Murray
"ARRG-AAAHH!" bellows Tsonga as a backhand drifts long for 40-15. Murray aims a cheeky flicking pass cross-court - just wide - but his next first serve seals the deal. We're one away. Stand firm. Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 1-4 Murray *
At last a hold for Tsonga, but he's got something of the thousand yard stare about him. Murray to his chair, a glug of juice, a smear of sweat on towel, and he's out again for the denouement.
* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 0-4 Murray
Hold to love, hold in the wink of a Sir Michael Caine's eye - want to start dreaming of Friday's semi with Rafa yet? Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 0-3 Murray *
What a contrast from the first two sets - the TsongServe as reliable as our auto-refresh system, a double-fault followed by a sit-up-and-beg second serve that gets punished with impunity. Lovely stop-volley for three break points, and neighbours' thighs are grabbed all around Centre - no no, one lost to a deep forehand, another to a similarly stopping volley from Tsong. That's good pressure on the third, the forehand into the corner, the reply.... long! Double break, double joy all around the partisan stands. Henman Hill? It's like midnight on New Year's Eve.* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 0-2 Murray
Three aces, one unreturnable second serve, all done in about 35 seconds. That's how to maintain a break. Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 0-1 Murray *
How much powder has Jo-Tso been keeping dry? Enough for successive explosions on first serves - 30-0. Glimpse of a bald man there in the crowd sporting a hairband - work that one out. Ah, that is light-fingered larceny from Murray, clipping a backhand pass away, going cross court and piling on the pressure at deuce with relentless slice and spin - that looks long from Tsong, much too long... it is, and the break has been stolen in wonderful fashion.
THIRD SET

* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-6 Murray
Shadows stretch out from the players' tired toes; fans dab their foreheads and slurp surreptitious Pimm's. Tsonga, who appeared asleep on his feet, dramatically re-awakes - sloppy from Murray, and there's a break point, from somewhere - oh, well held sir, dipping a forehand cross court. I'm told the auto-refresh has packed in - no idea why, I can only apologise - but it might mean you have to get busy with the old F5 key until the techies do the business with their pokers and pliers. Tsonga 7-6 6-7 2-5 Murray *
A reminder that Rafa Nadal awaits the winner of this tie in Friday afternoon's semi-final. Keep that expectation in check, however - there's work to be done here yet. Reaching, stretching backhand into the net from Murray, and he'll serve for a two sets to one lead.* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-5 Murray
All the spark has gone from the Tsongame. It might be that he's considering this set a dead duck, but those are dangerous tactics - how to re-start the engine once you've let it splutter out? Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-4 Murray *
Tsong no longer the man he was just half an hour ago - at 40-15 he really should seal it, but he nets with a backhand, mis-hits another mid-court and slumps into his chair with a despairing groan as a second break slips away.* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-3 Murray
You look back at that second set tie-break, and Tsonga's missed volley at 5-4... This isn't so good, though, Murray seeming to lose concentration and putting a forehand netwards to ship away two break points. You don't think... One saved with a solid backhand volley at the tape, the space created with topspinners out wide, the second... saved again after a nerve-shredding exchange of volleys at the net. Who said sport was good for your health? That's another splendid ding-dong at the net, and Murray comes out triumphant again. Big, big points.

Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-2 Murray *
Shonky old injury record, Tsongs, and at 0-30 he appears to be wobbling for the first time - ach, poor return on an average second serve from Murray, and he'll get put away for 30-30. Something does seem to have changed about the Frenchman, even if it's almost imperceptible - that backhand fizzes wide with little pressure on it, and that'll bring up a break point - oh, there was a chance there, running onto a forehand with a cheeky little gap winking cross court only to find the net. Mmm-mmm - dreamy drilled backhand for another break point, lost on a backhand into the tramlines. Possible use of an obscenity there from the Brit - any lip-readers watching the video feed may be wondering why he's suddenly started talking about ducks. Another chance is whisked away by the whippy punch of the Tsonga forehand, advantage conceded with a forehand long, deuce taken back with a Tsongs error and another ad set up with a teasing, tantalising lob. Oh, that is a heartbreaker - feeble Tsong backhand, bang into the tape, dropping just onto the Murray side, and Murray sinks to his knees in disbelief. Another JWT error out side, a seventh break point... finally snaffled as a Tsonga backhand volley pings into the tramlines.* Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-1 Murray
Murray's hair sticking up at all angles, his eyebrows towelled sideways and his fringe plastered every which way. Sloppy backhand miss from Tsonga, Murray taking advantage to go to 40-15 - short second serve, thundered back past him on the backhand side for 40-30. Tsongs then puts another backhand into the net, and we're level pegs. Might just be a problem with the Frenchman's thumb here - he's wincing as he looks at it, albeit with back turned to Murray so his rival can receive no bonus boosts.

Tsonga 7-6 6-7 1-0 Murray *
The old stage went ripe bananas there - all 15,000 on their feet, the Scottish saltires being brandished as if it were breakfast at Bannockburn. What a day we're having here. The noise goes up another notch as Murray flicks a perfect arcing lob away for deuce, but he just misses with another to the same spot. One hour 47 minutes on the clock so far, and no end in sight.

SECOND SET

Tsonga 7-6 6-7 Murray
Tsonga taking his time now, cranking up the tension - oh, blistering return from Murray, battering a 134 mph brute back with extravagant interest. Too good from Tsongs, lacing a forehand into the corner for 2-2.... mmm, ace down the middle from Murray for 3-2 on serve. Tsongs put-away at the net for 3-3, and the next few points could decide the direction of the entire match. Fast, spitting serve from JWT for 4-3, the same from Murray for 4-4. Random, panicked shouts and yells from all around. Murray sprints, fetches, flails... into the net to give away the mini-break, and if Tsongs serves out here he'll have a two-set lead. Murray at the back of the court - Tsongs is coming in, the return dipping... volleyed into the net! 5-5. Enormous serve - somehow clattered back... onto the baseline, and Murray suddenly has his own set point. Tsonga... forehand long - Murray's levelled! Tsonga 7-6 6-6 Murray
Hello, suddenly the first glimmer of nerves from Tsonga - forehand long, and when the first serve misses Murray has a chance. When it doesn't, like then - and then again - it's a nightmare to get hold of. That's the one - forehand drives to the Tsonga backhand, forcing him deeper and deeper and then dashing to the net to punch away the volley into the abandoned spaces. Bang - that heavy heavy first serve rides to the rescue again, and we're into a second breaker....

* Tsonga 7-6 5-6 Murray
Murray paces to the service T, the turf beneath his toes browned and worn away by the blazing heat and baseline battles. Rock-solid serving for 30-0, Tsonga at the net for a simple thrash away - boof, down into the tape and away on his side. Murray nods his head as he goes to his towel, and he'll go again at the Tsonga serve. Now's the moment...

Tsonga 7-6 5-5 Murray *
Ah, lovely from Murray, faking a scampering backhand down the line and turning the wrists at the last moment to go cross-court for a winner - 15-30, and the crowd yell their encouragement. You have to say that's splendid from Tsongs, hammering in the first serves, waving off the rampant home support. The shadow of another tie-break looms large on the horizon.


* Tsonga 7-6 4-5 Murray
Gulps from the galleries as a double-fault opens a chink in the Murray armour. Tsonga bouncing around beyond the baseline, eyes narrowed, forearm flexed - well played Muzzington, angling in the first serves at pace, slicing another to edge back in front. What pressure can he now put on the TsongServe?

Tsonga 7-6 4-4 Murray *
Relentless serving from Tsonga. They're battering down at 135 mph, time and time again - ace, unplayable, ace, unplayable. All the pressure on the home favourite, but where is he going to find another break from?

* Tsonga 7-6 3-4 Murray
That's one way to deal with it - service game to love, topped with an ace and follow-up overhead slammer. Arms wave on the packed Henman Hill like a storm-blown field of corn.

Tsonga 7-6 3-3 Murray *
Strange old atmosphere out there at the moment. Tsonga's power is dismantling Murray, that forehand blasting big holes in his much-vaunted defence, the serve impregnable again, the volleys crisp and perfectly placed. Three on the bounce for Tsonga, and you sense this is a big, big game coming up.

* Tsonga 7-6 2-3 Murray
Dear oh dear - unforced error on the backhand side from Murray, one on the forehand and another mid-court into the net to proffer up two break points. "Nooooo!" screams Murray. He looks a touch happier when a Hawk-Eye challenge from Tsonga is rebuffed for 30-40, but the Frenchman is all over him now - big forehand into the corner, Murray stranded, the ball drifting up for a smash - thunk, into the corner to snatch the break back...

Tsonga 7-6 1-3 Murray *
Tsonga once reached the semi-finals of the boys' singles here, having won the International Junior Champs at Roehampton the week before. He gets lucky with a volley onto the net-cord which wobbles before falling into Murray territory, but that big serve is too spicy for Murray to swallow and he's on the board in this second set at the fourth time of asking.

* Tsonga 7-6 0-3 Murray
Noise and optimism fill the air. Tsonga's not a man for sitting back, let alone lying down - 15-30, an easy overhead to put away for two break-back points... and he's thrashed it long! How important could that be - Murray comes battling back into his own game, driving the forehand, rolling away the topspin backhands. Break maintained, but everything feels tight and tense out there.

Tsonga 7-6 0-2 Murray *
Finally a foothold in the TsongaServe. That's brilliant from Murray, chasing down a simple smash to drag a backhand from somewhere, fighting his way back - chance for a break... That's a huge serve, somehow block-sliced back, the ball dying a death as it crosses the tape - Tsonga will have to bend low, but he can't bend low enough - volley into the net, and Murray has grabbed the break...

* Tsonga 7-6 0-1 Murray
Now then. This is a test. Consternation all around Centre, Kim Sears and Mama Judy almost the only emotion-free faces in the stands. That's more like it, clicking through the first serves, closing Tsongs out, fist-pumping at the worried expressions staring back at him.

FIRST SET

Tsonga 7-6 Murray
Murray's 10th tie-breaker of the year, and he's only won three of them. I'm just saying. Great start, snatching a mini-break away on Tsonga's first serve - but that's a brutal return from the Frenchman, and Murray can do nothing with it. No no - shoddy backhand into the net for 2-1, all against serve, but that'll drift Tsong from longa - I'm sorry, long from Tsonga. Murray will challenge a call on what looks like a long forehand - stays long forehand, 4-2 - oh, much better first serve, skimming and rapid, battered long by JWT for 4-3. Tsonga then repeats his rival's trick, for 5-3, and when Murray can only frame another serve high into the sunny sky he's staring down the barrel of three set points. Here we go... wide from Tsongs, 6-4; net from Tsongs, 6-5. JWT with a serve for the set... wonderful stop-volley, and Murray has conceded his first set of the championships.

Tsonga 6-6 Murray
Splendid under pressure. There's an ace, a delicate half-volley, a rock-wristed backhand - we'll march into a breaker...

Tsonga 6-5 Murray *
Tension starting to ratchet up now. Murray sitting very deep to receive serve, jumping up and in as the ball is tossed high - slight sniff at 30-30, but that's a rock-solid overhead from the 25-year-old Frenchman. First time in the tournament so far that Murray's had six games taken off him in a set. Steady now - it doesn't have to be an omen.

* Tsonga 5-5 Murray
Murray content to be cautious here, and I'm not sure that's always the wisest tactics against such a feisty, aggressive player. Blistering forehand down the line from Tsonga at 0-15 - it's called in, and Murray will challenge... Lordy, out by by a millimetre of ball fuzz. Almost an action replay next up, but this time with the ball fractionally further in - break point. Big first serve, scamper to the net, one put-away.... and another, scare averted. Deuce. Ah yes - ace down the middle for Murray ad, followed by another to bring us level again. Nervy times.

Tsonga 5-4 Murray *
Suddenly the gloves come off. Counter-punching backhand from Murray, J-Tson left wrong-footed, and we'll have our first break point... no, saved with a rapid first serve that can only be fended into the tape. Big booming serve - out wide, this time, and it's called out - Tsonga will challenge, rightly so, and Hawk-Eye shows that it nibbled the outermost crust of the line. Murray must hold serve to stay in the set.

* Tsonga 4-4 Murray
All about the serving so far. Murray never troubled in that one, the re-filling Centre cheering him back to his towel on another scorching, sweaty SW19 afternoon.

Tsonga 4-3 Murray *
A line of youthful spectators in neon pink, blue, green, yellow and white t-shirts (one in each, not some dreadful melange) - I think they might be spelling something out, but they're facing the wrong way for me to see. Tsonga rumbles through his service game like a runaway dumper-truck.

* Tsonga 3-3 Murray
Encouraging early signs on the Murray serve, much more 3rd round v Simon than 4th v Querrey. He's landing the first ones, controlling the points and dashing in to flick a gossamer-touch drop-shot cross-court when JWT has the temerity to slice in a forehand tempter.

Tsonga 3-2 Murray *
Two very different sets of tactics out there, if expected - JWT looking for polish points off as soon as possible, punching big forehands from all around, Murray preferring to stay in the points with slice 'n' dice. The Frenchman's paying off a touch better at the mo - hold to love, few dramas.

* Tsonga 2-2 Murray
Muted atmosphere out there at the moment, the aftermath of the the Federer shock still silencing the spectators, the reserves of adrenaline taking time to be replenished. Murmurs as Murray slices a backhand into the net, but Tsonga then goes long with a sliced approach. Murray at 40-30 - mmm, ace down the middle for parity.

Tsonga 2-1 Murray *
A fact to calm the nascent nerves: Murray has won his last 20 matches against French players. One to wobble them: the last one to beat him was Tsonga. Solid hold from the Ali-alike, the seats now starting to be filled again as the players park up for the changeover.

* Tsonga 1-1 Murray
They've met three times before, these two, with Murray 2-1 up - but we all remember that first round shock at the Aussie Open two and a half years ago. First ding-dong on grass. Jo-Tso doesn't like to mess about, and a punchy backhand from mid-court takes him to 30-30, only for an over-ambitious thrasher to gift any sniff of a break away.

Tsonga 1-0 Murray *
Barely anyone left around Centre - no-one moved for the last two sets of Berdych's dethroning of Federer, and there's a whole lot of leg-stretching and bladder-emptying that needs to be done. It's not quite as Murray would have pictured it. Tsonga up first to serve, and a couple of big crashers pull him away from a potential pickle at 30-30.

* denotes next server

1553: I can't quite believe what we've seen at this Wimbledon. I'm not just talking about Federer crashing out - I've just popped to the gentlemen's toilets on Centre, and there are ladies in there Not at the urinals, not yet, but it's surely only a matter of time.



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