Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerJo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won a record breaking match at the Olympic Tennis Event on Monday as he outlasted Milos Raonic in a marathon three-setter 63 36 25-23. The titanic battle lasted 3 hours 57 minutes on No. 1 Court.
Tsonga and Raonic played 66 games in their second round clash, which turned out to be the longest best-of-three-sets match in Olympic tennis history, eclipsing the previous record of 63 games set in a women’s doubles match at Seoul 1988. The final set, totalling 48 games, is also the longest at the Olympics.
When Tsonga broke Raonic’s opening serve in the first set, helping him to take a 3-0 lead, it looked like the Frenchman might make light work of his Canadian opponent, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Tsonga served out to win the first set 6-3, but Raonic immediately fought back and turned the tables on the No. 5 seed at the start of the second, breaking his opening serve to take a 3-0 lead. Just as Tsonga had done to him in the first set, the world No. 23 continued to hold serve to win the second set 6-3 and force a decider.
In a third set that lasted just short of three hours, both players were frugal with the break point opportunities they offered on their own serve. After a rain delay early on, the match trundled on, and on, and on, as everyone’s thoughts started to drift to the infamous Isner-Mahut marathon match at Wimbledon in 2010. This encounter wasn’t equal to that one, but at one stage it was well on its way!
Tsonga had his first match point at 16-15, but an ace from Raonic put paid to that chance. A similarly big serve resulted in a missed return on Tsonga’s second match point at 21-20. However, when the Frenchman went 0-40 ahead at 24-23 the mountain was too large for Raonic to climb. He got back to 15-40, only for a long point to go the way of Tsonga. Cue the trademark bouncing celebration!
“At the end I was just very happy for my country. I did it for them, and that's it. When I arrive on the court, I forget myself, and I try to play for the others,” said Tsonga, who is making his Olympic debut at London 2012.
“It was not easy because I have to finish on his serve, and this guy have a big serve, so it was not easy. I had many possibilities and I didn't took it. He played better than me on these points. Finally I did it, so I'm really happy. I think it's something good, to have some good match like this at the Olympics. It's good for tennis, it's good for sports, and I'm just really happy the way I played today.”
Raonic added: "I was a little bit disappointed with the way I started the first three games, but after I felt like I was playing the better tennis for most of the match until probably really late in the third set. Then he was sort of creeping past me. I created a lot of opportunities for myself, so it was a little bit unfortunate I didn't make the most of them. There's a lot of good things to take, there's a lot of learning things to take from this."
Tsonga’s reward is a third round meeting with Feliciano Lopez, following the Spaniard’s impressive 64 64 win over Juan Monaco. Tsonga has won all three of his previous matches against Lopez, including a straight sets victory at Wimbledon in 2007.
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