Today’s quarterfinal shocker on Centre Court (watch match highlights here) was a combination of Roger Federer losing some fire and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga getting in the zone. Tsonga is one of these guys that everyone knows is dangerous when he gets hot. He rolled over Rafael Nadal three years ago at the Australian Open — 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the semis — in an absolute beatdown. We haven’t seen a performance like that from him in a Grand Slam since. But today he just absolutely lifted his game those last three sets, even breaking Federer in the first game of the fifth set. To take down Roger Federer at Wimbledon after going down two sets to love is an unforgettable accomplishment. Those last three sets were more about Tsonga than Federer.
This is a guy who’s been on the radar for a match like this for a long time. He’s obviously had some injuries and questions about fortitude and motivation. He’s got Novak Djokovic next, who’s 48-1 this year, so we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m thinking about Marion Bartoli, another French player, who beat Serena Williams on Monday. You say, “Gosh if she can do that to Serena there’s no reason why she can’t win the tournament.” And then she’s no longer here. With Tsonga, you’d like to say, “My gosh, you beat Federer at Wimbledon with three sets with that level of play then there’s no reason you can’t win this thing.” But the history here does not augur well for two more wins. It was a great, great performance, can he keep it up for six more sets?
Federer tends to be pretty even keel in defeat, especially at this point in time. Last year he lost to Tomas Berdych in a very similar situation, a similar kind of match where he just got outhit at the end and you could tell he wasn’t happy. Today was almost this sort of too-good resignation.
The questions coming out of today’s match will inevitably surround his chances of winning another Grand Slam. He’s lost three of the last four Wimbledons now. And in the one he won, Nadal didn’t play. So the questions will now become: Is this the end? Is this a champion in decline? There’s no question, the numbers speak for themselves. But really the takeaway from today is that Tsonga just played three great sets. I would not use this match for the jumping off point for the Federer obituary.