France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bludgeoned Roger Federer to an historic defeat to reach the Wimbledon semifinals on Wednesday, as the Swiss star suffered his first ever Grand Slam loss after being two sets up. The sensational 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 result condemned six-time champion Federer to his second successive quarterfinal defeat at the All England Club.
It will also spark more doubts over the 29-year-old's ability to add to his 16 Grand Slams — the last of which came at the 2010 Australian Open — and cast a shadow over his bid to match Pete Sampras's record of seven Wimbledon titles.
For 26-year-old Tsonga, it will be his first Wimbledon semifinal spot where he will tackle World No.2 Novak Djokovic for a place in Sunday's final. The second-seeded Serb had to dig deep to get past teenaged Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic a gritty 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.
“It was amazing. I played unbelievable. It's never easy to come back against Roger. I'm so happy, it's crazy,” said Tsonga, whose best Grand Slam performance was a runners-up spot at the 2008 Australian Open.
“He's the biggest champion in the sport. He has achieved so much and is the best player in the world. To be two sets down and come back was unbelievable. I served really well.
“Against Djokovic I will have to come out and do the same again.”
Incredibly, there were no signs of the drama to come as Federer, who went into the match with a 4-1 winning record over the 12th seed, was in majestic form early on. He cruised through the first set on Centre Court courtesy of a break in the second game, which turned out to be his only break of the dramatic afternoon.
The Swiss was in such dominant form that the opener took just 27 minutes with the former champion firing 12 winners, remaining error-free in the process.
Tsonga, playing in his second successive Wimbledon quarterfinal, was more solid in the second, but buckled in the tiebreak which Federer was never going to relinquish once he had taken a 5-1 lead.
But the Frenchman, whose career has been blighted by a series of injuries, broke for the first time to lead 2-1 in the third set with a searing forehand down the line.
He then held his nerve in the 10th game where he needed a fourth set point to cut the deficit.
Tsonga was now in the ascendancy and broke to lead 2-1 in the fourth set as Federer, who had lost just two service games in his previous four rounds, was being out-hit by his muscular opponent.
A 14th ace from Tsonga gave him the set 6-4 and the quarterfinal was all-square.
Federer was almost on his knees, broken again to trail 1-0 at the start of the decider before Tsonga surged away to capture a famous win in the 10th game when the former World No.1 wearily mis-hit a service return.
Djokovic was well below his best for long periods in a tense quarterfinal clash on Court One, but the World No.2 showed all his battling qualities to finally subdue his teenage opponent.
The Serbian second seed has now reached five successive Grand Slam semifinals.
Australian Open champion Djokovic arrived at Wimbledon last week with questions over his frame of mind as he prepared for his first tournament since his remarkable 43-match winning run was brought to an end by Federer at Roland Garros.
But the 24-year-old, who lost in the semifinals here in 2007 and 2010, will take over from Rafael Nadal as World No.1 if he can reach his first final at the All England Club.
Tomic has practiced with Djokovic regularly since the pair met an exhibition match in Australia last year and he admitted this week that his friend thrashed him in one-set match on the training court before Wimbledon.
This was a much tighter affair right from the start. In a marathon opening game lasting nine minutes, Tomic staved off three break points before Djokovic's pressure finally told when the Serb's drop-volley secured the break.
Djokovic's astute shot selection kept Tomic from establishing any rhythm and another break in the seventh game gave him the first set in emphatic fashion.
However, Djokovic produced a lacklustre effort in the second set and a sloppy service game, including a double-fault on break point, gifted Tomic a 3-1 lead.
Tomic, the youngest male quarterfinalist here since Boris Becker in 1986, had Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter supporting him from the stands and even those two grass-court experts must have been impressed with the way the teenager closed out the set.
When Tomic, unloading some piercing ground-strokes, broke in the first game of the third set, it briefly seemed an upset was on the cards.
Djokovic looked increasingly frustrated as he stalked the baseline bemoaning his misfortune. But he didn't have long to wait to break back as Tomic played an error-strewn game at 3-2.
Tomic suddenly surrendered the initiative with another woeful service game and Djokovic broke before taking the set.
When Djokovic broke at the start of the fourth set and then won his seventh consecutive game, it would have been easy for Tomic to cave in. Yet the youngster hit back with a break of his own.
Djokovic kept plugging away though and the Serb finally made the decisive break at 5-5 with a sublime drop-shot before unleashing a roar of delight.
Kvitova, Azarenka through
On Tuesday, eighth seeded Petra Kvitova and fourth seed Victoria Azarenka joined No.5 Maria Sharapova and unseeded Sabine Lisicki in the women's semifinals.
Kvitova secured her second successive semifinal spot with a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 win over Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova while Azarenka advanced after defeating Austrian Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-1.
Kvitova, who could become the first left-hander to win the women's title since Martina Navratilova in 1990, had dropped just 15 games in her first four matches.
Pironkova, a semifinalist last year and who put out five-time champion Venus Williams on Monday, pushed Kvitova but the 32nd seed was out-muscled.
“I am so happy to be in the semifinal. I made some mistakes in the second set and was a bit down mentally,” said Kvitova.
“It's great to be back in the semifinal and now I have more experience of the Centre Court.”
Azarenka will be playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal when she meets Kvitova on Thursday, having previously lost four quarterfinals at the majors, which had led to questions over her temperament.
Jana Novotna was the last Czech woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish back in 1998.
Meanwhile, Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, the fourth seeds advanced to the semifinals of the women's doubles with a hard-fought 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over the unseeded Spanish duo of Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja.
The Indo-Russian pair had beaten thirteenth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday to make the quarterfinals.
Keywords: Wimbledon 2011