Roger Federer makes short work of Tsonga

MICHAEL GLEESON
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014
Fairfax Australia

Tennis writers Peter Hanlon and Linda Pearce preview Day 9 of the Australian Open including Stanislas Wawrinka's quarter-final clash with four-time champion Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer
Getty Images
BACK TO HIS BEST: Roger Federer elegantly dispatched Jo-Wilfred Tsonga to set up a quarter-final matchup with Andy Murray.

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This is how Australian Opens go. Serena Williams only ever wins, no one beats her, but sometimes she is injured. It gets hot and many are still taken by surprise.

And, at least latterly, the Australian players begin commentating by the time Roger Federer is in the quarter-finals.

And Roger always makes the quarter-finals. Still.

For the 11th straight year Roger is in the quarter-finals. He first started making them just after he had his 21st with a fondue night in Basel, and now he is bringing his wife, kids, and former boyhood idol, who has become his coach, along with him.

Things have changed, his ranking has rippled slightly below where it was, but he still holds court. And on Monday night he was still imperious.

Against the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former finalist here, Federer, the man who has won this Open four times, not only won, but did so in such an elegantly composed and complete manner that his game looked not only to have ventured back to where it had been at his best but even to some places it might not have been back then.

Federer broke Tsonga in his first service game and, looking sharp as a new haircut, held his advantage for the set. He was back where he belonged in many ways. His game looked as breezy as it has for some time with his flourishing one-handed backhand, serve and court movement returning to that level that reaches 11 on the dial.

He was also literally back where he belongs. Earlier in the tournament someone had the temerity to schedule him to play at Hisense Arena. He needed directions. In a decade of playing here it was the first time he had been required anywhere other than the centre court.

Federer's career statistics are a veritable industry of themselves, but amid all of the data that glazes eyes over one unsettling statistic erupts like a white-headed pimple - he has won only three of his last 13 matches against the world's top 10.

Tsonga, the 10th seed, is a man not lightly disposed of - last year they also played one another here and Federer took five sets and more than three-and-a-half hours to claim the win.

A measure of how emphatic the 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory was was the fact Tsonga managed to have only one break point on Federer's serve in three sets. He lost it.

The second set was as thoughtful and confident as the first. Federer was approaching the net in a way that was more than vintage, more than he had even in his salad years.

Federer has battled with a niggling back but said after his last round win that he was pain-free, feeling freer than he had in some time. He broke Tsonga again early in the last set and never looked seriously challenged.

Federer now plays Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, and if he gets through that Rafael Nadal looms and then Novak Djokovic. On the reckoning of most, that's the three best players in the world one after the other.

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On a side note, one of the first public moves of new coach Stefan Edberg for Roger Federer was, amusingly, to position a towel over the lens of the camera that sits pointed at the players' entourage as they gnash their teeth and ride each point through the match.

- FFX Aus

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