Roland Garros: Djokovic d. Tsonga

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“I haven’t played many good matches this year,” an admirably honest Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said before his fourth-round meeting with Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros. It’s true: The Frenchman, who has been ranked as high as No. 5, has dropped all the way to No. 14 in 2014. But he may have reached a new low in Paris today, where he lost 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 to Djokovic in what can barely be called a match at all.

The fans in Court Philippe Chatrier has hoped for a repeat of Tsonga’s brilliant near-miss performance against Djokovic there in 2012. What they got instead was a repeat, and then some, of his dismal effort on the same court last year in the semifinals against David Ferrer. On that day, Tsonga had waited as Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played a five-set epic; today he waited as Roger Federer and Ernests Gulbis also went five. Both times Tsonga cooled off for so long that, once he finally made it to the court, he never had a chance to warm up. 

This one took just 89 minutes, and appeared to be over before Tsonga woke up. Perhaps that’s because Djokovic had the sleeper hold on him from the start. He was clean from first game to last, and worked the baseline with masterful efficiency—from what I can see, Djokovic’s sliding is even better this year than it has been in the past. He faced just two break points, hit 18 winners and made 18 unforced errors, and, after giving up a couple of leads in his last match, made sure he closed the door quickly on this one. "It's like playing the Great Wall of China," Paul Annacone said in the commentary booth.

Tsonga tried to rally with Djokovic early, which went nowhere. He tried to attack more in the second set, which did earn him one break of serve, but not the two he needed. In the third set, Jo started talking to himself—that didn’t work, either. He finished with an atrocious 16 winners against 38 unforced errors, and won just 51 points to Djokovic’s 86. The Serb has won 15 straight sets over his former French rival.

Djokovic, who has now reached 20 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, has to feel good about getting past what had threatened to be test. He should get a bigger one in his next match, against Milos Raonic, who was a few points from beating him two weeks ago in Rome.

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