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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Roger Federer loses to Tsonga in Wimbledon quarterfinals

Roger Federer became one of the greatest players of all time thanks partly to his remarkable calmness under pressure but it was that very same quality which cost him dear in Wednesday''s shock Wimbledon defeat by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-4 quarter-final reverse, which condemned the record 16-times major champion to a second Wimbledon last-eight exit in a row, was the first time the Swiss has lost a grand slam match having been two sets up.

As excitable Frenchman Tsonga stormed back into the contest by markedly increasing the power of his hitting, an unruffled-looking Federer just played his usual game when a spot of tub thumping and a change of approach might have worked better.

The likes of Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic would have slammed their rackets into their feet or the ground and screamed with anger having let such a lead slip and then going a break down early in the fifth.But third seed Federer, bidding for a record-equalling seventh title on the South London grass, kept up his poker face and banked on his glorious stroke-making to dig him out of a hole instead of charging into the net or boosting his shot speed.

"At least it took him, you know, sort of a special performance to beat me, which is somewhat nice," a still laidback Federer told a news conference as he avidly defended his doomed strategy. "He hung in there. I was controlling the match. Next thing you know, he just continued serving great, which for me was important to get at least a couple of chances."But the chances were slim and he only needed a couple of breaks to end up bringing it home. I thought my game was plenty good enough to win the tournament."

Federer's reputation as the undisputed King of Wimbledon has further slipped, though, after signs at the French Open and this fortnight that he was back to his very best following last year's humbling defeat by Tomas Berdych and a barren spell. He has not triumphed in a grand slam since the 2010 Australian Open and with world number one Rafa Nadal having cast his spell over the Swiss, the chances of more major success look slimmer.

Tsonga, whose love of diving around Centre Court endeared him to the crowd and lessened the blow of seeing their beloved former champion lose, was not surprised that Federer failed to change his demeanour despite impending trouble.
"It's difficult to play against him because you don't know exactly what he's thinking, what's happening in his head," he said ahead of a last-four meeting with Novak Djokovic on Friday. "Federer has all the time the same comportment and it's difficult because he plays so fast. You don't know if he's scared or not, and it's really difficult. But, anyway, I didn't look at him. I was just focused on me, on my serve."

Federer glided through the first set and never looked in danger in the second set or tiebreak as Tsonga showed few signs that he was capable of making a scrap of it. However, Tsonga soon found his groove with his immense energy and athleticism suddenly worrying Federer. Famous as a Muhammad Ali lookalike, Tsonga broke for 2-1 in the third and fourth sets and held out thanks to some punching groundstrokes and trademark volleys when against the ropes.

His raw power began to completely stifle Federer, who slipped a break down at the start of the fifth set when he netted. Federer could do nothing to halt Tsonga's momentum with the Frenchman piling into every stroke with all his might to reach a third grand slam semi-final.

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