“In tennis, numbers tell the story. Even if you hit the best shots, you don’t necessarily win.”
Those are the words of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga talking about his friend and fellow Swiss resident Stanislas Wawrinka, who played magnificently until after 1:30 a.m. Monday before losing 12-10 in the fifth set to Novak Djokovic.
Tsonga, who meets Roger Federer tonight in Rod Laver Arena, could have been talking about himself because he has been the author of plenty of beaux coups(beautiful shots). And he has had his share of heart-breaking losses – including after four match points against Djokovic at Roland Garros last year.
Federer leads their head-to-head 8-3, but the Frenchman has inflicted a few notable losses on the great Swiss.
Most memorably, Tsonga played the ‘beautiful shots’ and still managed to get the numbers right in the 2011 quarterfinals at Wimbledon after trailing two sets to love. Federer looked home-free but ‘Jo’ became a whirling dervish of serves, ground strokes and volleys. Soon Federer was a shell-shocked 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loser.
Going into Wednesday’s match, Federer has the advantage because he’s playing his fifth night session in a row, while Tsonga has yet to appear under the lights. But he can draw inspiration from one of the most scintillating night-match displays in tournament history – his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 demolition of Rafael in the 2008 semifinals.
Tsonga, 27, hopes his association with new coach (since October), Roger Rasheed from Adelaide, can elevate his game. “He can move mountains because he’s very motivated,” Tsonga says about the always revved-up Rasheed.
Mountains don’t come much higher than Federer, who was immaculate in a three-set dismantling of Milos Raonic on Monday night. Federer has not lost his serve in four matches. “This is obviously a great thing I have going,” he said, putting it in the context of playing no pre-Aussie Open events in 2013.
Back to Tsonga – the reason he was up until the wee hours watching Djokovic–Wawrinka on Sunday night; “I was having trouble sleeping and it was nice to have something interesting to watch on TV.”
Andy Murray hopes to put on a good show, and set up a possible meeting with Federer in Friday’s semifinal, when he plays surprise quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy on Thursday afternoon. Murray is 4-1 versus the Frenchman, with the only loss coming in Cincinnati last August in a fallow period between his historic achievements at the London Olympics and the US Open.
In two women’s quarterfinals, top-seed Victoria Azarenka faces two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who missed all of 2012 after Wimbledon because of surgery to remove a piece of bone from her right knee. But six wins total in between Sydney and Melbourne Park is proof the Russian is far superior to her current No. 75 ranking. “I got the game to give her some problems,” Kuznetsova insists about facing the defending champion.
Following Azarenka–Kuznetsova on Rod Laver, it’s two Americans; Serena Williams, 31, versus Sloane Stephens, 19. They’re friends but Stephens thought it “disrespectful” when Williams used some loud “c’mons” during her 6-4, 6-3 win in Brisbane two weeks ago.
On Monday night, after yet another smashing win, Williams was informed on-court that she had reached her 35th Grand Slam quarterfinal. Serena cleverly quipped, “party of eight.” Since Wimbledon last year, the women’s tour has been “a party of one.” And everyone knows who’s at that table.
TOM’S INTREPID TIPS
Azarenka def. Kuznetsova in three: Sveta has barely missed a beat since returning after surgery, but Goon Rock’s music in Vika’s ears has her inspired to win.
Williams def. Stephens in two: Like Federer with Tomic, Williams doesn’t want Stephens getting any big ideas.
Murray def. Chardy in three: The Scot needs a vigorous outing going into the semis after a sketchy win over a depleted Gilles Simon on Monday.
Federer def. Tsonga in five: Jo-Willie, ever the showman, entertains royally before bowing out to mighty Rog.