Wimbledon: Andy Murray's brilliance too much for brave Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
What drama, what tension, what brilliance. Centre Court may never have witnessed a pair of quarter-finals quite like it as Roger Federer and Andy Murray, the two players most loved by the public on this the most famous stage in tennis, delivered victories that will live long in the memory.
Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had much to live up to after Federer's remarkable comeback from two sets down to beat Marin Cilic, but the Scot and the Frenchman served up a humdinger of a match.
Murray won 7-6 6-1 3-6 4-6 6-1 after three hours and 53 minutes to earn a semi-final meeting with Tomas Berdych, but only after Tsonga had staged a courageous fightback.
"I tried to use all of my energy at the beginning of the fifth set to try and get myself up and try and get the crowd pumped up," Murray said afterwards. "It had been a long day for them with some long matches. Thankfully I got the early break and managed to hang on."
Having won his first four matches in straight sets, Murray was pushed to the brink by one of the game's finest grass-court players. Having gone two sets down, Tsonga threw caution to the wind. The World No.12 consistently attacked the net, played some beautiful volleys and hit some stunning winners on the run.
Murray has been in these situations many times before and the Scot showed all his usual athleticism in chasing down balls and he mixed his game up beautifully.
After his 27th successive victory over Frenchmen at Grand Slams, Murray is through to his 20th Major semi-final and his seventh here, which equals the tallies of both Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic.
The only players ahead of him on the Open era list are Federer (12 semi-finals), Jimmy Connors (11), Boris Becker (nine) and John McEnroe and Pete Sampras (eight each).
This was Murray's 100th tour-level victory on grass, a total bettered among current players only by Federer, who has 151 wins to his name. It was also his 51st match victory at Wimbledon, which equals Bjorn Borg's total.
Murray had won 12 of his previous 14 meetings with Tsonga. He had won all five of their previous encounters on grass, but Tsonga had won a set in four of them.
There were two breaks of serve in a ferociously competitive opening set. Two successive double faults cost Tsonga his serve in the fifth game, while a backhand winner saw the Frenchman level at 4-4.
The tie-break produced some superb tennis as both men saved three set points before Murray won it 12-10.
After the tie-break had tilted one way and then the other it reached a glorious conclusion after Tsonga saved a set point at 9-10 with a forehand winner. On the next point Murray flew across the court to dig out a stop volley and cracked a forehand down the line which Tsonga was unable to get back. A fired-up Murray took the set on the next point.
Tsonga's disappointment was evident in the second set. Murray was 5-0 up in no time at all and having taken an hour and 16 minutes to win the first set, the Scot needed only 26 minutes to double his advantage.
The World No.2 appeared to be coasting, but Tsonga broke to go 3-1 up and served out for the set with something to spare. Now it was Murray's turn to appear vulnerable as Tsonga turned on the style.
With three hours and 20 minutes on the clock Murray had gone from a position of dominance at two sets up to parity. Was he about to lose from two sets up for only the second time, the first having been his Wimbledon debut in 2005, when he lost to David Nalbandian?
No he was not. Instead, Murray responded superbly. He celebrated loudly after breaking serve to go 2-0 up and was soon 5-0 ahead. Moments later Centre Court erupted as Murray secured victory with an ace.
"It was a tough match," Murray said afterwards. "The end of that fourth set was really tough. Losing the 4-2 game after breaking and coming back from 0-40 in that game, to lose that set 6-4 was hard."
Asked how the third and fourth sets had got away from him, Murray said: "Tsonga's a pretty good player. He's one of the best grass-court players in the world and credit to him for fighting his way back."
Murray has beaten Berdych in their last four meetings, but before that the Czech led their head-to-head record 6-4. Murray has won two of their three Grand Slam encounters and they have never met on grass.
"He's very tough," Murray said. "He's been to the final here. He's beaten Djokovic and Federer at Wimbledon. He'll be feeling comfortable."