If any tennis player knows about the rope-a-dope strategy that took Muhammad Ali to victory over George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" it should be his lookalike, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose father attended the most famous fight in boxing history 36 years ago.
Knowing how Ali won, however, is a different matter to being able to avoid defeat in similar fashion on a tennis court. Andy Murray took everything the big-hitting Tsonga could throw at him for the best part of two sets here yesterday before coming off the ropes to knock the Frenchman out. Murray, who won 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2, now faces Rafael Nadal, the world No 1, in tomorrow's semi-finals.
Tsonga, serving superbly and hitting his forehand with awesome power, took a set off Murray – which none of the Scot's first four opponents had managed – before being worn down by the all-round excellence of his opponent's game. The world No 4 repeatedly turned stupendous defence into electrifying attack. Tsonga went for his shots throughout, but when rallies of any length developed it was usually Murray who won them.
Murray's athleticism frequently defied belief. Tsonga kept going for winners, but Murray covered the court with astonishing speed. The Scot made only 14 unforced errors in the match (compared with Tsonga's 37) and his consistency eventually wore the Frenchman down.
Tsonga had to save only one break point in the opening set, hitting a service winner at 4-4, though Murray looked equally at ease. Until the tie-break the Scot's only problem came when a wild drive volley at 4-5, 30-30 handed Tsonga his first set point, which Murray saved with a well-timed foray into the net.
The first four points of the first set tie-break all went with serve, but Tsonga then hit three service winners in succession to take a 6-3 lead. Murray saved set points two and three, but on the fourth Tsonga played serve-and-volley to perfection to take the set.
Murray responded by breaking in the second game of the second set, having created break point in remarkable fashion when he retrieved a smash and forced Tsonga into a volley error. From 0-3 down, however, the world No 10 won three games in succession, finally breaking the Murray serve with a smash.
With no further breaks of serve, the second set went into another tie-break. Tsonga made what seemed a vital mini-break to lead 5-4, but Murray held his nerve, levelling at 5-5 thanks to a fine cross-court backhand and then creating set point as the Frenchman made a crucial error.
When Tsonga hit a huge serve down the middle it was all Murray could do to get the ball back. As the Scot's return floated over the net Tsonga shaped for an easy put-away, only to leave the ball and then turn to see it hit the baseline. Murray's subsequent service winner sealed the set, upon which the Scot leapt in celebration. Tsonga hurled his racket to the floor in frustration.
If those three points were the major turning point, another followed in the third game of the third set, which lasted 10 minutes. Tsonga, who appeared to have hurt his right thumb at the end of the second set, saved five break points before putting a volley out on the sixth. Murray broke again to lead 4-1 and served out for the third set.
Tsonga's spirit looked broken now and Murray immediately took command of the fourth set by breaking serve twice in the first three games. He completed his 22nd consecutive victory over a French opponent by smashing a huge forehand cross-court winner. It was a suitably spectacular way to end a remarkable day.Reuse content