Tsonga powerless to stop Murray's relentless march to semi-finals
It was power without responsibility.
He checked Murray’s progress briefly in the fifth and seventh games but had to fight with blind faith in his talent to do it, several shots crunching the lines.
Broken near the start of the second set, Tsonga showed admirable spirit to break back in the seventh game, then came to life with a roar and smash, before edging ahead, with serve. Murray, stung, grabbed two break points in the eighth game, and they headed for the tie-break, territory in which he as always felt assured of prevailing.
In the earlier Group A match, Djokovic beat a fragile Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-6 in a curious mixture of brilliance and lassitude. He almost blew it in the tie-break, falling behind 5-1 and had to scramble back from 6-3 as Berdych collapsed.
Despite Djokovic’s protestation later that this and the other matches in this end-of-season tournament satisfied the high standards set throughout the year, it was an uneven contest.
“I don’t agree,” he said, mustering full politeness when it was suggested a certain weariness had invaded some of the performances. “I think the quality of tennis has been really good this week.” Other witnesses read it a little differently.
Berdych, for one, observed, “It wasn’t one of my best matches against him.”
Janko Tipsarevic, after losing badly to Federer the night before, described his own tennis as “horrible”. There were further lapses here and there – understandable ones after 11 months of high-intensity competition – which were not so prevalent in the big tournaments of 2012, and with good reason.
This, for instance, was Djokovic’s 73rd win in 85 matches, nine more outings than he had in 2011, his year of years. He is, by any standards in any era, a remarkable player, and ought to be allowed the odd ordinary performance – even if he does not see it that way.
Only the Spanish grinder David Ferrer, with 88 matches, has played more often; Tipsarevic posted 84 for the season, followed by Berdych (82), then Federer and Del Potro (both 80).
Murray, meanwhile, was playing only his 71st match and, although he has suffered physically with a chronic back injury that briefly threatened to bring him to ground at Roland Garros, he was as fresh as a spring lamb in eventually mastering Tsonga.