ATP Tennis 360

January 28, 2010 1:25 PM

Federer vs Tsonga preview

fedex.jpgSince 2004 one between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal ha conquered 20 out of the 24 Grand Slam events played. And the Swiss, approaching to play his 23th consecutive semis in a major, is two step aside from continuing this story.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, his first opponent, will be presses to duplicate, in their first Grand Slam meeting, his improbable comeback from 1-5 down in the third set at the Montreal Masters. "Cassius Clay", arrived at the Australian Open with a little wrist injury, put every concerns to rest and, after a brilliant run, played his first five setter in his career in the fourth round against Nicolas Almagro and then Novak Djokovic, in a match seriously affected by Nole's aches.

Roger hasn't won a tournament since Cincinnati and between then and now has lost a pair of finals, at the Us Open and Basel. Roger's tournament until now has been quite convincing, except for he first set against Andreev, a player traditionally uncomfortable for the Swiss, because he hits deep forehands without giving rhythm, and the first set and a half against Davydenko.

The Russian remains the highest ranked player not to have taken part to a Grand Slam final yet. The second man to have twice beaten Roger and Rafa in the same tournament showed again some mental limit affecting him in the big stages.

After a draw more similar to a Challenger's one until the third round, Davydenko, with his allcourts tennis, his no-glamour style, capable of resurging from suspects and some humiliation after the gambling scandal, demonstrated the first signs of cracking against Verdasco. He slept for a pair of sets, won in the fifth, but nobody really considered as an alarm bell, the more because Nando is never an easy player to defeat in Australia (ask to Rafa for confirmation).

Against Roger, instead, a pair of wasted break points were enough to made him fool. And bye bye dreams.

Now Tsonga, who has already played a final here, two years ago, has to grasp to his serve, given his "aversion" for winning returns, undoubtedly the weakest link in his game. The always smiling Frenchman will be able to find advantages in attacking and trying to shorten the rallies, while Roger will surely dictate the points and insist on Tsonga's backhand.

Also Andy Murray has to show to be matured from the 2008 Us Open final. In that situation, after a dramatic in over Rafa Nadal, he struggled in filling up the expectations, and was blocking by some shaking, so typical in a debutant covered by pressures. From then, he voluntarily decided to erase aggressiveness and attacking nature from his game, losing effectiveness and above all not reaching the expected results.

In Melbourne he found again his missing piece, dominated the rallies and showed that variety of astonishing shots and solutions that made him a champion. Surely, in his quarterfinal victory over Marin Cilic, the tiredness was a factor: the Croat, the second more outstanding apparition ever happened in Medjugorie, had played eight hours more than the Dumblane-native, and came through three epic five setters against Tomic, Del Potro and Roddick.

But the shot he invented from his infinite cylinder, a stonking forehand down the side of the net with the ball about 10 centimetres off the ground and at full stretch led the crowd on its feet and constituted a clear message to either the Frenchman or King Roger: I'm back, and I'm grown. I will tremble no more

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