Tsonga powerless to stop Murray's relentless march to semi-finals
TENNIS:It took Andy Murray 33 minutes to reach the semi-finals of the Barclay’s ATP World Tour Finals, and, despite a spirited fightback in the remaining hour or so, there was not a thing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could do to stop his progress.
Given the labyrinthian maths attached to the round-robin format, Murray needed only to take the first set of last night’s match to join Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the weekend’s matches and he did it so convincingly in that dazzling first half-hour that he gave substance to the conviction that he can win this finale to the season, a fitting garland to an Olympic gold medal and the US Open title.
That he spoiled the canvas with minor lapses when Tsonga finally came to life, and needed a tie-break to secure victory, signalled only that perhaps he fell victim to complacency, knowing his place was secure.
Murray is likely to meet Federer in tomorrow’s semi-finals, unless Juan Martin del Potro does to the Swiss in Group B today what he did to him in the final in Basel two weeks ago.
But enough of the maths.
In brushing away Tsonga’s edgy challenge in front of an enthralled audience, Murray produced tennis of the highest quality in the first set and for some of the second, subtle and clever in its conception, near-perfect in its execution.
It took him a little over and hour and a half to win 6-2, 7-6 after holding four match points, and he finished with as lovely a flourish as he began, his third ace piercing the still night air, Tsonga, rooted to the spot, able only to smile in acknowledgement.
And what a start Murray made: he had two break points in as many minutes and from that point onwards, he kept his foot on the pedal. It was a delight (for Murray and his supporters, at least) to see his devilish under-cut backhands slide and fade so low the Frenchman could not have hauled them over the net with butterfly net.
So comfortable was Murray against even the most thunderous of Tsonga’s serves, he some times crept a foot or two inside the court to take them on the rise, returning with much interest, either flat and powerful or with angled cut and drift.
Bewilderment induces desperation and Tsonga’s response to humiliation on a par with that which Murray inflicted on him at Queen’s two years ago was to belt the cover off the ball, tactics that took no heed of the boundaries of the court and only deepened his crisis.