Tennis Freaks

“1821: Nadal, I’ve noticed, has a problem with his shorts, in that they keep on getting stuck up his jacksie and he has to pull them out before every point. Not sure why he doesn’t just get a size up, he’s probably loaded.”

Tsonga v Nadal as it happened

Australian Open, Melbourne

Men’s semi-final result:

J-W TSONGA (Fra) bt R NADAL (Spa)

6-2 6-3 6-2

By Phil Harlow

THIRD SET:

1050: “What a man, what a player! Maybe Andy Murray will lose to the eventual champion?”
Ben in Oxford via text

“This man is going to be a megastar now. Nadal has never been beaten like this – not this easily, not in a Grand Slam and not when he has been playing so well.”
BBC Sport commentator John Lloyd

Tsonga 6-2 Nadal
The two players emerge from their seats and Tsonga gets an absolute hero’s reception from the crowd.

A Nadal mistake and an accurate overhead volley put Tsonga 30-0 up. Nadal, ever the fighter, fires a beautiful passing shot and pumps his fist like a super-charged Tim Henman.

But on the next point Nadal plays an air shot as the sheer ferocity of Tsonga’s volley takes him by surprise.

And, fittingly, the Frenchman seals it with yet another ace. The crowd is on its feet and Tsonga applauds them back.

Tsonga 5-2 Nadal
A fantastic forehand winner leaves Nadal rooted to the spot as Tsonga goes 40-15 up with some glorious tennis.

Next point sees Nadal go long with a backhand and Tsonga, now two breaks up, is just one game away from the final.

1040: “It’s not really so surprising. Nadal has had no serious challenges up until now and his record on hard courts is poor. All credit to JWT though.”
Jo, Bristol via text

Tsonga 4-2 Nadal
Nadal is looking all at sea in Melbourne. A net cord sees the ball bounce enticingly in the middle of the court but the world number two’s attempted drop shot hits the net about a foot off the floor.

Another mistake on the next shot from Nadal and it’s another easy hold for Tsonga.

Tsonga 3-2 Nadal
Not a great game from Tsonga as Nadal holds without too much trouble. But the big man knows that the telling blow has already been struck and that holding his serve from here on in will be enough to take him into the final.

1034: “We realised Tsonga was good, but we didn’t know he was this good.”
BBC Sport commentator Sam Smith

Tsonga 3-1 Nadal
Tsonga is going from strength to strength on the big stage as he holds to love.

A couple of rash – even angry – shots from Nadal give the impression that he is starting to realise that the game is up – and he’s not happy about it.

Tsonga 2-1 Nadal
That game was just a nightmare from start to finish for Nadal as he handed Tsonga the break in the third.

It was largely self-inflicted from Nadal as he misses the target from the net with 90% of the court to aim at. Another mistake at 40-15 down and that’s that. The set and the match are Tsonga’s for the taking.

1026: “Tsonga’s stinging like a bee now! Can he finish it off?”
Helen via text

Tennis purists – that’s a reference to Tsonga doppelganger Muhammad Ali, by the way.

Tsonga 1-1 Nadal
Nadal is playing like a man possessed as he goes 40-15 up on Tsonga’s serve with some good old-fashioned hard work, but Tsonga battles back to deuce, albeit with some good luck.

The umpire overrules on a Tsonga serve and the Frenchman is furious, shouting “you are wrong” at the official. To be fair, the overrule was wrong.

Tsonga responds with a great ace and then takes the next point to seal the game. Top stuff under pressure from Tsonga.

1019: “This is fantastic for tennis. For a couple of years it has been ‘same old, same old’ and finally we could have someone fresh and exciting breaking through.”
craigtenniscoach on 606

Tsonga 0-1 Nadal
After another trip to the bathroom for Tsonga, Nadal comes out fired up and takes the first game of the set confidently.

Nadal will need to come from two sets down for the fourth time in his career if he is to make Sunday’s final.

1014: “Let’s reinstall some faith in Nadal, our champion who will make Tsonga fall!”
Ryan B via text

SECOND SET:

Tsonga 6-3 Nadal
Simply brilliant stuff from Tsonga as he holds to love to seal the second set. The crowd go billy bananas and Tsonga is rather pleased about things as well.

Tsonga 5-3 Nadal
Nadal is psyching himself up like he’s about to take Tsonga, a Muhammad Ali look-a-like, lest we forget – on in the boxing ring, hitting himself in the chest after winning a point.

But Tsonga wins his way to a break point courtesy of a drop shot volley over his shoulder that was so beautiful it should be on the front cover of Vogue. He makes no mistake as he smashes an overhead volley into the ground and over Nadal’s racquet.

Brilliant stuff, and the fans in Rod Laver Arena can sense they’re watching something special here.

Tsonga 4-3 Nadal
Tsonga never lets Nadal get into the game as he wins it comfortably. Before the game started, he just had a quick word with the umpire about Nadal’s fidgeting in-between points when returning. A good sign that he will not be intimidated by the star facing him across the net.

Tsonga 3-3 Nadal
The crowd inside the Rod Laver Arena is really warming to Tsonga’s exuberance before an unforced error at 30-30 takes the wind out of his sails a little.

He soon gets the good people of Melbourne going again as a delightful drop shot gives him the initiative to take the game to deuce. But Nadal is not in the mood to give up on this and he does the necessary to hold again.

Tsonga 3-2 Nadal
Tsonga is making this look – well not easy, but comfortable. Nobody would be able to tell which player was appearing in his first Grand Slam semi-final. this is only his fifth major, don’t forget.

Tsonga 2-2 Nadal
Nadal holds comfortably for the first time in a little while. Is he finally playing himself into this match after such a slow start?

0948: “Tsonga is a joy to watch… let’s hope he can beat Djokovic in the final!”
Estesark on 606

0946: “How long will it be before the crowd adopt a Black Lace-inspired ‘Do do do… come on and do the Tsonga’? Sorry, I’ll get my coat…”
Elvis via text

Tsonga 2-1 Nadal
A simply breathtaking shot from Tsonga as he plays a half-volley drop-shot from Nadal’s return that catches the Spaniard off guard.

A couple of mistakes from the big man takes it to deuce – the first time in the match that Nadal has had him under any kind of serious pressure – but an ace and a long forehand from Nadal see him hold.

Tsonga 1-1 Nadal
Tsonga – the son of a Congolese international handball player, in case you were wondering – gets a slice of luck as Nadal trips over his own feet chasing an invitingly bouncing ball at 30-30.

Nadal challenges a call at break-point down and gets it right by approximately 0.000002 millimetres to take it to deuce. He has to save another two break points, but eventually holds on to his serve.

Tsonga 1-0 Nadal
Tsonga went for a comfort break at the end of the last set, but it is business as usual as he holds to love to start the second set with a bang.

Nadal is just not putting his opponent’s serve under any kind of pressure at the moment, but surely his experience will help him to find a way to change the dynamics of this match.

FIRST SET:

0924: “This is simply brilliant stuff that Tsonga’s showing.”
Gintonic4all on 606

Tsonga 6-2 Nadal
A very sloppy overhead from Nadal sets the tone for the game as Tsonga races 40-0 up to give himself three set points.

At the first time of asking, he smashes yet another forehand winner past Nadal to break to love and seal a massively impressive opening set. That’s the first set Nadal has dropped all tournament.

0919: “This just shows what a great chance Andy Murray would have had if he’d beaten Tsonga.”
James, Southampton via text

Don’t let’s spoil the fun, James….

Tsonga 5-2 Nadal
Some of Tsonga’s forehands are frightening to behold, hit with astonishing power and athleticism. Nadal, fighting for everything as ever, gets to 30-30 but the Frenchman wins two comfortable points to move within sight of the first set.

Tsonga 4-2 Nadal
Nadal gets the benefit of an over-rule from the umpire on an ace and goes onto hold serve for the second time. He still doesn’t look entirely comfortable out there though.

Tsonga 4-1 Nadal
Another ace from Tsonga and two perfect serve and volley points put him into a 40-0 lead. He seals it with a third ace of the match for a love service game. Have some of that.

Tsonga 3-1 Nadal
The Tsonga forehand is quite some weapon, but Nadal’s backhand is not too shabby either. Tsonga is looking to target the serve, but Nadal ups his game a little to get on the scoreboard.

Tsonga 3-0 Nadal
Tsonga’s serve is causing Nadal problems already with the world number two struggling to get the ball back into play.

An unreachable ace finishes the game off and it’s a dream start for the unseeded player. Blimey.

Tsonga 2-0 Nadal
Nadal starts off with a double fault and then a beautiful volley from Tsonga puts the Frenchman 30-0 up. Nadal – whose ability to get the ball back over the net beggars belief at times – fights back to 30-30 before another Tsonga volley gives him the first break point of the match.

A fabulous reaction volley from almost point-blank range at the net sees him take it. What a start from the Frenchman.

Tsonga 1-0 Nadal
An inauspicious start for Tsonga as he goes 30-0 down on his serve, but some powerful hitting to the furthest reaches of the court moves Nadal around and sees him take four points in a row to seal the game.

0848: We’re pretty much there. Last drinks are drunk and sweat is towelled off as Tsonga prepares to start the match.

0844: The roof is half closed in Melbourne, by the way, to save time in the event of rain. Not sure if that will have any impact whatsoever, to be honest with you.

0842: Nadal does his traditional zig-zagging sprint back to the baseline and the pair start to knock a few balls about as the tension builds.

0840; A bit of psychological warfare from Nadal? The Spaniard keeps Tsonga waiting for nearly two minutes as he quaffs a drink on the sidelines before jogging out for the coin toss.

Tsonga wins the toss and opts to serve first.

0838: After a Spinal Tap-esque wander around the backstage corridors, Tsonga and Nadal emerge to massive cheers from the Melbourne crowd.

0835: Both players are buttonholed by an Australian journo on their (incredibly long) walk to the Rod Laver Arena.

Breaking news: both players expect “a very tough match”.

0833: Almost every seat at the is taken as the fans wait for the players to emerge, and the TV cameramen – as is their usual way – focus on several attractive young ladies in the crowd. I take no notice, of course.

0830: This match sees the world number two taking on Tsonga, a man ranked 36 places below him in the ATP list. But will that show out on court given Tsonga’s tremendous form in getting to the last four?

0825: What a game we have in prospect here. Jo-Wilfried was magnifique in his quarter-final demolition of Mikhail Youzhny, while Nadal overwhelmed Jarkko Nieminen with muscular brutality.

Which man will be left standing at the end of this one?

Story from BBC SPORT

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