Australian Open 2008 – Jo-Wilfried TSONGA: A sensational path

Reading time 4 min.

Round after round and at the end of an impressive path, a veritable master-work, since the beginning of the Australian Open, from the end of his racket, Jo surprises everyone and surges to the final round after a perfect control of his semi-final against mens’Nr.2, Rafael Nadal.

In his 5th Grand Slam tournament appearance, after a tough start of his career and years unsettled by reiterated wounds, the 22-year old Franco-Congolese won his ticket for the final with an incredible elegance and serenity.

An incredible path at the tournament or the hatching of a talent

Since the first round he sent the young prodigy of English tennis and mens’ nr. 9, Andy Murray, packing, his star could already be announced as rising.

After this first round, Jo has since added Sam Warburg, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, eighth seed Richard Gasquet and fourteenth seed Mikhail Youzhny, to his list of scalps. He adopts an offensive strategy in each of his matches, thanks to his powerful service, and strong forehand. He wins a lot of points when coming to the net, destabilizing everyone of his opponents and forcing them to commit errors. He comes to face a showdown semi-final with mens’ nr. 2 Rafael Nadal, with optimism, saying: “Like every match before, I try to be realistic and that’s exactly what i am going to do… to be relaxed on the court.” Adding that Nadal: “has two arms and two legs like me, so we will see on the court”.

Facing Nadal: a brilliant demonstration

Less than 2hours and a stark three-set result (6-2 6-3 6-2) were needed for Jo to eliminate Nadal, disgusted, with the Open, who until that match did not lose any set he played. In the same state of mind he has been during his previous rounds, and no matter who he faces, Jo has shown perfect serenity from the beginning of the match, where he started with offensives on the court and pressures on Nadal, who could not concentrate on his game. Jo came on fire in the opener easing through his first service before stealing Nadal’s off him. Coming to the net and playing with perfect drops shots, Jo found keys to leave, making Nadal run a lot along the base line, thus easily allowing him to conclude points to the net. He finally won the first set on Nadal’s service game, and needed only one of the three set points he obtained, to finnish it at 6-2.

Few images of his performance

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Starting the second set, after a little break to the cloakrooms, he came back on the court with his towel thrown over his shoulders, like a boxer. .. he was about to beat his opponent by knock-out, using the same strategy which made Rafael feel sick in the previous set. This time crowd’s cheers went to Jo, when both opponents held their first serve. With the help of a powerful overhead smash he leapt into the lead by 4-3 and 40-30, leaving Nadal doubting his own renowned powerful forehand. Three aces later and an unforced error from the opposite side of the net, the second set was concluded at 6-3, inspiring a standing ovation from a delighted crowd in Tsonga’s honour.

The third set started after another short toilet break for Tsonga, at a time when Nadal was trying to lift his game. Twice, Nadal had a break opportunity to take Tsonga’s first service, giving the impression that he was making a comeback into the game. But, alas!, he did not succeed in transforming both opportunities and the advantage turned back after a series of unforced errors. Tsonga won his service and right after that made his first break. Sticking to his strategy alongside the flow of play, he advanced with a 5-2 lead before he served for the remainder of the match.

In the last game, he eased his way to 40-15. The first ball, an amazing ace was enough to kill Nadal’s remaining chances allowing him to oil his way into his first Grand Slam final. Reacting slowly and in awe of his own achievement at first, Tsonga warmed into what has became his trademark jump and thumbs-up celebration.

The performance was brilliant and awesome, reflecting his progress in the tournament. “Mister Jo” has become an international star, one who has imposed respect and won over the crowd in a matter of days. He encounters world Nr 3, Novak Djokovic – the 2007 revelation – who eliminated Roger Federer (Nr.1) in 3 sets (7-5 6-3 7-6[7-5]), qualifying for the final.

Read also: Tsonga facing Murray

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