ATP Monte Carlo: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga upsets Roger Federer to reach semifinals

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga upset four-time Monte Carlo runner-up Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday, outlasting the world number three 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the semifinals in Monaco for the second time in his career. The Frenchman started slow, but picked up steam in the final two sets, while Federer, who was playing only his third match since the Australian Open due to knee surgery, faded down the stretch.

Federer holds on in wild opener

It was Federer who got out to quicker start, breaking Tsonga in the third game for the early lead. But the Frenchman was not about to let Federer break away to early. He came right back and brought up a handful of break points in the very next game. The third seed saved the first two, but Tsonga was not to be denied and broke at the third opportunity to put the set back on serve.

After a pair of routine games for both men, Federer made another charge. He broke Tsonga again at 3-3 to once again take the initiative in the set. History seemed poised to repeat itself, as the Frenchman poured the pressure on his opponents serve in the following game and brought up a break point at 40-AD. This time, Federer was up to the task and saved the break point before holding to put himself a game away from the opening set. But the Swiss did not want to wait to serve for the set, he mounted on more charge against his opponents serve and broke Tsonga for a third time in set to seal the opener.

Roger Federer hits a backhand volley. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
Roger Federer hits a backhand volley. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Tsonga races back to even match

Tsonga killed Federer’s momentum immediately at the start of the second set, racing ahead 0-40 in the first game of the set. Federer would save all three break points, but the Frenchman brought up a fourth at 40-AD and converted for the immediate break. He did not let up and broke the Swiss again a few games later for a 4-1 lead.

But Federer was not going to go away quietly. The third seed upped his return game after being broken and reclaimed the first break to close to 2-4. However, the momentum was still firmly with Tsonga and he brought up double break point immediately in the following game, converting the second to give himself a chance to serve out the set. The eighth seed made no mistake, holding to love to force a deciding set.

Late break sends Tsonga through

Probably knowing that a lengthy battle would be to the advantage of his opponent, Federer went after the Tsonga serve immediately in the Frenchman’s first service game of the set. The third seed forced Tsonga to battle through five deuces, but he never reached break point. In the end, the eighth seed held to tie things up at 1-1.

Tsonga sprawls for a backhand during his quarterfinal victory. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
Tsonga sprawls for a backhand during his quarterfinal victory. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Both men continued to hold serve comfortably as the set progressed. However, the rust of having not playing since the Australian Open started to creep into Federer’s game as the set inched closer to its conclusion. In the end, that rust would get the better of Federer, as he was broken at the worst possible moment at 5-5, the only break point of the set, to give Tsonga a chance to serve out the match. The four-time runner-up did not go away quietly and forced the Frenchman to 30-30, but he fell just short as Tsonga won the final two points to wrap up the victory in just over two hours.

By the numbers

Federer’s service numbers were not where he would have liked them to be, as he only got 58% of his first serves in, winning 67% of those points and only 51% when missing his first serve. His net attach was also not as effective as it often is, as he only won 17 of 27 net approaches. Tsonga was slightly stronger on his first serve, winning 73% of those points. However, his second serve was far worse, only managing 42%. Federer saved seven of 12 break points, while Tsonga saved three of seven.

Tsonga led in both winners and unforced errors, although his differential was smaller. The Frenchman hit 33 winners to 41 unforced errors, while Federer only had 22 winners to 34 unforced errors. In the end, Tsonga only won three more points than Federer.

Tsonga will now await the winner between countryman Gael Monfils and Spaniard Marcel Granollers in the semifinals. In his only other appearance in the last four in Monte Carlo, he lost in straight sets to then eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal, who is a potential finals opponent.