Mardy Fish’s excellent summer is over.
In a match played in extremely complicated, swirling winds in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the top-ranked American surrendered a two-sets-to-one advantage to the athletic and charismatic Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and finally ran out of steam in five long sets, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 3-hour, 45-minute match kept the massive night-session crowd at bay, shut out of Ashe and forced to congregate on the esplanade watching the big screen for more than an hour.
Through three sets, Fish appeared to have the advantage, using a focused and contained game, punctuated by frequent trips to the net to withstand that powerful artillery of the Frenchman. Yet Tsonga kept swinging freely and turned the match around in the fourth set with a crucial service break at 4-4.
Behind tremendous serves that routinely topped 130 mph and forehands that saw Tsonga lift off the ground to pummel the ball, the Frenchman hit through the windy conditions.
“The wind was really hard today,” Tsonga said. “You play against yourself, against your opponent. It’s really difficult.”
This was the first meeting between the two versatile veterans, who are still hoping for that elusive Grand Slam breakthrough. The Frenchman has more big-match experience, having been to the Australian Open final and the semis at Wimbledon.
Tsonga, 26, advanced to his first US Open quarterfinal by crunching 51 winners, including 12 aces. Although not known as a returner, the Frenchman crucially converted on four of six break-point opportunities.
The strong winds may have propelled both players – each of whom is known for his all-court game – toward the net even more than usual. It was an effective ploy for both Tsonga and Fish; together they attacked the net 121 times (with Tsonga winning 63 percent and Fish 69 percent of those points).
Fish began limping noticeably at the end of the fourth, and he was treated on court for a strained knee prior to the start of the final set. Tsonga immediately came out firing and seized the early break after a richochet net rally that saw Fish push a backhand volley long, followed by a rifled forehand pass.
Tsonga has an excellent record in five-set matches, having now won seven of nine. He has been working with Andre Agassi's former trainer, Gil Reyes, who told him to “trust your legs and make it burn,” Tsonga said.
Appropriately enough on this Labor Day, he did. “Today I make it burn,” he said.
- This is now Tsonga’s deepest run at the US Open. He has now won 18 of his last 22 matches against American opponents.
- Fish has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in a major.
- Fish had won the Olympus US Open Series and was looking to possibly win $1M in bonus prize money.
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (11)||6||65||3||6||6|
|Mardy Fish USA (8)||4||77||6||4||2|