Jo-Wilfried Tsonga capped off a stellar week by denying third seed Roger Federer his third title at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. Tsonga collected his second ATP Master Series 1000 shield by defeating the Swiss maestro 7-5, 7-6 in 107 minutes, and became the first Frenchman to claim victory on Canadian soil. By claiming his 11th tour-level crown, Tsonga ended an 18-month title drought, and ascended back into the top ten of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in five months.
Earlier in the week, thirteenth-seeded Tsonga shocked spectators when he dismissed top seed, and world No. 1, Novak Djokovic in straight sets (6-2, 6-2). He then went on to defeat eighth seed Briton Andy Murray in the quarter finals (7-6, 4-6, 6-4), before trouncing seventh seed upstart Grigor Dimitrov (6-4, 6-3). With Rafael Nadal having pulled out of the tournament with injury, Tsonga’s triumph saw him defeat four top ten players and beat three of the ‘Big Four’; a very tall order.
During the first set, each player was holding serve, despite unforced errors from both sides. Tennis quality picked up late in the set as Federer displayed his master’s touch at the net. Tsonga managed to hold strong through the eleventh game, and at 6-5, the pressure was on Federer. The Swiss right-hander faltered badly on serve to pin his back against the wall at 15-30. The Basel native fought back to level the game at 30 all, but misfired again to set up a set point for his French opponent. Federer hit a ball long, and on his first time of asking, Tsonga wrapped up the opening set with a break for 7-5.
The second set was a high quality affair, and despite Tsonga having multiple break opportunities, Federer showed his talent level by erasing the opportunities. The set eventually went to a tie-breaker, with Tsonga seizing the initiative with a mini-break to go up 4-3. Winning the next three points, the Le Mans native clinched victory, along with 1000 ranking points and $598,900. This was Tsonga’s second ATP Masters Series 1000 shield, having won Paris in 2008 by defeating David Nalbandian 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The victory also keeps him in the running for the million dollar bonus offered by the US Open Series, which will culminate in New York at the final grand slam of the year.
Tsonga won 93% of his first serve points, but it was Federer’s lack of break point chances which really stood out in the match. The 17-time grand slam winner did not produce a single break point, while his opponent produced seven, and capitalized on one to take the opening set. Tsonga’s power was on full display, and heavy spin on his second serve wreaked havoc on Federer’s return game.
Much has been made of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga since he reached the Australian Open final in 2008. The charismatic Frenchman has put his talent on display over the years, but he has been sidelined with various injuries as well. Tsonga’s defeat of Roger Federer to win the title in Toronto, and his other victories over top ten players this week, is the fulfillment of potential that has always been on the cusp of being realized. Tsonga will be full of confidence as he heads to Cincinnati, Ohio for the final stop before the US Open.
Commentary by John Benjamin Wilson