Novak Djokovic saw semi-final rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga demolish the theory that men's tennis is all about the "big four" and expects to face more fireworks from the French dangerman today.
A place in the Wimbledon final and the world No 1 ranking are on the line for Djokovic. Both are important to the fiery Serbian, who has regained his composure since the racket-smashing tantrum during his third-round match. But he knows Tsonga carries with him plenty of menace, as was demonstrated during his stunning five-set victory over Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic, on the brink of overtaking Rafael Nadal at the top of the men's rankings, began the year with a 41-match winning streak. But Federer halted that run in the semi-finals of the French Open, and Djokovic realises Tsonga could cause him more heartbreak when they play first on Centre Court.
"It's not only about the top four," Djokovic said. "There are other players that are able to play great tennis, and Tsonga has proved it. It's all very close at this level, especially in the second week of a grand slam."
While Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray have pulled away from the rest at the top of the men's game, the likes of Tsonga are capable of springing surprises.
With his booming serve and supercharged forehand, the Le Mans-born 26-year-old has been threatening to break into the elite group for several years, but injuries have stymied his progress.
Tsonga knows Djokovic well, as it was the man from Belgrade who beat him in his own and only Grand Slam final, the Australian Open of 2008. On that occasion, Tsonga was unseeded, at Wimbledon he is the No 12 seed, and against Federer he performed like a No 1, coming from two sets down to beat the six-time champion.
"It was an amazing comeback," Djokovic acknowledged. "He's been playing great in the grass-court season so far. He played really well in Queen's, and now he's been winning against top players. So he's very dangerous. We are both baseline players. I think a lot will depend on our serves. I need to serve well because that's something that he's going to do, for sure.
"I think his game as well depends on that serve. If he starts missing first serves, then I can have some more chances in the rallies. But, look, I expect a very, very even match."
Djokovic rated his opening two wins at Wimbledon this fortnight as "really good", admitted he played "not so great" against Marco Baghdatis but then raised his game against Michael Llodra in round four.
The 24-year-old was able to dismiss Bernard Tomic in the quarter-finals without being at his best and said: "[It has been] kind of up and down. But hopefully now it's going to go up." Tsonga knows where the differences between the pair lie as he prepares for his first Wimbledon semi-final.
"He's more consistent than me on his baseline," Tsonga said. "He hits the ball maybe slower than me. But he takes the ball really early, so this is maybe the difference. Maybe also my serve, because I served really well [against Federer].
"Anyway, we are different: different character, different personality. We will see. We are just different because we are not from the same country, not from maybe the same family, the same education. So it's completely different, and that's it."Reuse content