Djokovic through after epic victory over Tsonga

 

Novak Djokovic put on a stunning display of resolve to advance to the semi-finals of the French Open with a thrilling five-set victory over home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga, playing in his first quarter-final at Roland Garros, looked out of sorts as he lost the first set in just 21 minutes, but the Frenchman produced a spirited comeback to take the next two sets.

But he then spurned four match points in the fourth set before eventually running out of steam, leaving the world number one to clinch a 6-1 5-7 5-7 7-6 (8/6) 6-1 win and set up a semi-final against Roger Federer.

Djokovic was not at his best for large parts of this match, and Tsonga will rue the opportunities he missed, but the Serbian showed exactly why he is ranked number one in the world by winning the killer points and holding his nerve while under immense pressure in front of a partisan crowd on Philippe Chatrier.

Tsonga had promised to "fight like a lion" but he performed more like a scared kitten in the opening set. He held his first service game but Djokovic moved into a 3-1 lead after the Frenchman double-faulted at 0-40.

Another break followed after Tsonga found the net with a forehand and Djokovic held to take the set 6-1.

Djokovic's dominance continued as he broke Tsonga early in the second set, but the fifth seed steadied the ship by holding for the first time since his opening game.

The Tsonga fightback then began as he grew in confidence. A long backhand from Djokovic gave the 27-year-old his first break point and he did not disappoint, powering down a fierce backhand volley to level.

Tsonga held before clinching the second set at the third time of asking when Djokovic over-hit a backhand.

Tsonga wasted a chance to make early inroads in the third set and Djokovic pounced in the following game to move 2-1 ahead.

The Serbian lost his next service game to allow Tsonga to level at 2-2, however.

Djokovic then threw away two further break points and Tsonga made him pay by clinching the third 7-5 after overcoming the favourite with a volley that was greeted with a loud raw by the Parisien crowd.

The top seed was handed two break points early in the fourth but Tsonga responded with two unreturnable serves. Tsonga showed yet more incredible resolve to send down another ace when Djokovic had a break point in the ninth game and he sent down another to leave the Serbian serving to stay in the match.

Five-time major winner Djokovic wilted under the pressure, gifting Tsonga two match points but he did not take them.

Tsonga spurned another two chances to clinch the match in the 12th game and the fourth set went to a tie-break, which Djokovic won when the fifth seed ploughed into the net.

Tsonga, physically and mentally drained from the encounter, seemed rattled and crumbled easily in the fifth.

Djokovic broke twice and clinched the match with a precision backhand to conclude the epic clash after four hours and nine minutes.

PA

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