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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flooring Roger Federer is my best moment: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga described his incredible comeback to floor Roger Federer at Wimbledon on Wednesday as the greatest moment of his career.

The jovial Frenchman, nicknamed Ali for his striking resemblance to boxing great Muhammad Ali, proved that as well as his crowd-pleasing antics and flashy game he also possesses a fighter's survival instincts and a knockout punch.

After being softened up by Federer for two sets in their quarter-final on Centre Court, the 26-year-old world number 19 countered to win 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-46-4 and earn an unexpected crack at second seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.

"I felt so good on the court. I was quick, I was just perfect today. Every time I was feeling like a dream," said Tsonga, who is now in his third grand slam semi-final.

"For me it's the most special because I beat Roger Federer in the quarter-final here on this big court. I like the atmosphere here. For me it's just amazing.

"The feeling is like maybe what it would be like to beat Nadal in Roland Garros, so it's just amazing. For sure, one of the best memories in my career anyway."

At 26 Tsonga's career has been disrupted by too many months recovering from a plethora of knee, back and hip injuries and despite one of the most destructive games in tennis his best result was a run to the 2008 Australian Open final where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.

After two sets it looked as though he would just become another of Federer's many Wimbledon victims but, after loosening his shoulders, he came back swinging to leave the six-times champion, who had never lost from 2-0 up in a grand slam, reeling.

His victory was all the more impressive as six-times winner Federer did not do too much wrong.

Tsonga was simply ruthless when his chances came along early in the third, fourth and fifth sets and he hammered home his advantage with unplayable service games and fizzing groundstrokes as well as some trademark full-length dives.

Serving at 5-4 in the fifth Tsonga refused to let the Swiss maestro off the ropes, pounding down three juddering first serves to leave Federer no escape route.

"I think I've improved a lot mentally," Tsonga said of his clinical victory. "I'm stronger because I changed a lot of things in my tennis. Now I try to stay focused all the time and just breathe and stay quiet. I did it today and it worked.

"I think I'm the kind of player who likes these big moments. So I hope I will have some more."

Next up is Djokovic again and Tsonga insists he has a puncher's chance of rolling over the Serb.

Asked if he can win Wimbledon, he replied: "Why not?

"I played against Novak many times. He beat me all the time in the big moments and I want change it. That's it."

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