Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dismissed rising youngster Gregor Dimitrov in straight sets (6-4, 6-3) earlier in the day to reach the final of the ATP Master Series 1000 tournament in Toronto, Canada. Later in the day, Roger Federer mimicked his results (6-3, 6-4) to end Spaniard Feliciano Lopez’s rich run of form, and will meet Tsonga in the final on Sunday. The clash will be their 16th meeting, with Federer holding a decisive 11-4 edge over his French competitor. Despite the head-to-head stats, the results in the upcoming match between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are far from a foregone conclusion.
Tsonga last defeated Federer in 2013 in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros with an impressive 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 victory. Despite beating the Swiss maestro in Paris, Tsonga also posted a shocking come-from-behind victory in the 2011 quarterfinals of Wimbledon by pulling out a 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win. These triumphs illustrate Tsonga’s ability to hone his game on the biggest stages, against arguably the biggest player in the world.
Federer has had a return of form this season, winning titles in Dubai (D. Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3) and Halle (D. Falla 7-6, 7-6). His run to the Wimbledon final, and other strong results this season have seen him surge in the rankings, and return to the top 3. The Grand Slam title leader is contending to win his 22nd ATP Master Series 1000 title, second most of all-time behind Nadal (27), and his 80th career title (third all-time).
While Federer has posted strong results leading to the final, he has not beaten anyone he was not expected to defeat. On the other hand, Tsonga has notched a number of upsets over higher ranked and seeded players, including a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 trouncing of top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic. Tsonga went on to topple two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, before his final clinching victory over Dimitrov. Defeating Djokovic and Murray is already an impressive accomplishment, but he will need to make it a three-peat to win the tournament.
Despite all the conjecture about Sunday’s final, one thing that is for certain is that the match between Federer and Tsonga in the Toronto final will be an entertaining affair. Federer possess arguably the finest all-court game in history, while Tsonga pairs explosive groundstrokes with deceptively adept hands at the net. The 29-year-old Frenchman and 33-year-old Swiss great represent a trend of mature tennis dominance. 27-year-old Djokovic is the youngest player in the top five, and the recent extension of tennis longevity can be traced back to Andre Agassi’s last stint at the number one ranking at age 33 in 2004.
That dominance will make its appearance in the courts on Sunday. The two players have had a long history of success, both against each other and against other opponents, and though Tsonga may be the underdog coming into this match, he is certainly not a player his opponent should take lightly. Regardless of who comes out on top when Roger Federer faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals in Toronto, the match is sure to be one for the ages.
Commentary by John Benjamin Wilson