Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meet for the first time since last August with a spot in the Wimbledon semifinals up for grabs. Murray is seeking to make that round for the 7th time in his career at the All England Club, while Tsonga has only been that far once.
(2) Andy Murray vs (12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It has been mostly smooth sailing so far for the 2nd seed with Murray winning all four of his matches thus far in straight sets. The Scot hammered Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 in round four to ease through to the quarterfinals. He was all over the Aussie’s serve, crafting 13 break chances. He would convert on four. He now has 21 breaks of serve at this year’s tournament. The Kyrgios match marked the third time that he had worked double digit break points, a testament to his superior return and defense.
Equally as impressive, Murray has shown a mostly stout first serve through the first four rounds. He has been broken just four times, but did not see a break point against his serve in the fourth round. Outside of the Millman match that was played partially outdoors and then under the roof, Murray has played clean tennis with a low number of unforced errors. Quite simply, he’s looked comfortable except for parts of the transition to play under the roof in the second set against Millman.
Tsonga was required to do little work in round four as his countryman Richard Gasquet bowed out in the opening set due to a back injury. The pair had played just six games when Gasquet quit. Tsonga was strong early in the tournament and then had to show his resolve in round three against 18th seed John Isner. Tsonga fell behind 0-2 to the American before crafting a five set win that ended 19-17 in the fifth. His serve has been controlling throughout his matches, but he’s not doing it with a ton of aces. He had 21 against Isner as his match high with his other two completed matches seeing him with a combined total of 17.
What he has done is zip in his first serve routinely, winning 81, 85 and 90 percent of the points on his first serve. The 12th seed’s second serve has been steady enough, winning more than half the points played off of it. He has saved nine of 12 break points against him this tournament. Tsonga too has had a relatively clean tournament with 161 winners (88 against Isner) and 59 unforced errors.
This quarterfinal showdown will be their 16th career meeting with Murray leading 13-2. Tsonga’s last win over Murray at the 2014 Rogers Cup on an outdoor hard court. His only other win over Murray came at the Abu Dhabi exhibition to start the 2014 season. Murray is 5-0 on grass against Tsonga, including a straight sets win last Summer in Davis Cup play. They have met twice at Wimbledon with Murray winning in four sets both times in 2010 and 2012.
The battle here is Murray’s return versus Tsonga’s serve. In order for Tsonga to entertain any notion of an upset, he needs to serve at an elite level. His first serve over the past week has been very good, but those have also come against a who’s who not known for any sort of stellar return ability. He gets that in Murray. If Murray works into his serve as he did against Kyrgios, this too could be quick work for the 2nd seed. Tsonga will need to pull out his best stuff on serve and fending off break points will be a huge key for him. If Murray is seeing double digit break opportunities again this round, it should spell doom for Tsonga.
When they do get into ground rallies, the 12th seed would do well to keep the points shorter. Rallies are always going to favor Murray’s defensive abilities. You would expect Murray to pick on the Tsonga backhand when he can as the weaker shot off the ground, while Murray has really become a solid enough hitter off both sides now that it’s harder and harder to go after one wing as a weakness. Murray’s serve also seems less susceptible to breaking down, especially on grass.
All-in-all, this is a very difficult match-up for Tsonga and if Murray continues to pound on his opponent defensively, this seems like another step towards the final for the Scot.
Murray wins in straight sets