Improved Tsonga ready for Federer


MELBOURNE, January 27 – France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said he was ready for the biggest challenge in men's tennis after beating an ailing Novak Djokovic in their quarter-final on Wednesday.The 10th seed gained a measure of revenge for being beaten by the Serbian in four sets in the 2008 decider by coming from a set down to win a thrilling encounter 7-6 (10/8), 6-7 (5/7), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.

He earned a semi-final berth on Friday against world number one Roger Federer, who also came from a set down in beating Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.

Tsonga was under no illusion as to the enormity of his task against Federer, but said he was a better player than the one that reached the 2008 final and was up for the challenge.

"I will be ready," he said. "It’s going to be tough though, he’s the best player ever. I have to play my best tennis.

"Roger played unbelievable today again, because Nikolay was in good shape, so it’s going to be tough."

Tsonga said he was physically stronger than in 2008 and also had more variety in his game.

The Frenchman has won one of his two clashes with Federer, that victory being in their most recent encounter in Montreal last year and said he would take confidence from that result.

The win over Djokovic was Tsonga’s second five-set success in as many matches, having prevailed over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 9-7 in the fifth set in the fourth round.

Before that win, Tsonga had never played a five-set match.

Djokovic, who had won his previous five matches against top-10 opponents, had all the momentum when he breezed through the third set, with Tsonga looking to have no answer to the depth of his groundstrokes.

Bearing a striking physical resemblance to former champion boxed Muhammad Ali, Tsonga found a way to climb off the canvas as Djokovic started to feel the effects of a taxing battle.

Tsonga said he noticed Djokovic was feeling unwell early in the fourth set.

"I was in good shape," Tsonga said.

"Maybe a little bit better (shape) than him.

"But he played unbelievable in the third set and I have seen him feel like that before and win."

Tsonga revived his chances with an early break in the third, immediately after which Djokovic called a medical time-out due to an upset stomach, vomiting while in the locker room.

Djokovic, who also had diarrhoea before the match, said he was unable to match Tsonga physically after being ill.

"I don’t want to find excuses for my loss, but, you know, I went to vomit and I had diarrhoea before the match," he said.

"Just a terrible feeling. It’s been a great tournament for me, so it’s just a bad way to not to be able physically go through the whole match."

The Serbian retired from his quarter-final against American Andy Roddick last year due to cramping and heat illness.

When he returned Tsonga skipped to a 5-0 lead on his way to leveling the match.

Tsonga then gained a break in the first game of the final set and could have taken an iron grip on the match had he converted more break points in the third game.

However, a Djokovic double fault in the fifth game handed the Frenchman a 4-1 lead and he tightened his grip to make it five wins from seven clashes with the Serbian.