Home favourite Andy Murray fought back from a set down to defeat France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the All England Club on Wednesday and keep British hopes alive ahead of a semi-final clash with Spain's Rafael Nadal.
REUTERS - Andy Murray punished Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for one crucial error of judgement on Wednesday to roar into the Wimbledon semi-finals for the second consecutive year.
Murray eventually raced to a 6-7 7-6 6-2 6-2 win and a last four clash with world number one Rafael Nadal but the match was balanced on a knife edge for two absorbing sets.
Tsonga, the 10th seed, launched a withering onslaught in the late afternoon sunshine and looked to have the home favourite on the rack until a rush of blood at 5-5 in the second tiebreak of the match changed everything.
The Frenchman thundered down a first serve which Murray chipped back at full strength and as the ball hovered in the air waiting to be punched away Tsonga hesitated, withdrew his racket, and turned expecting it to float out.
To his horror it dropped on to the dusty baseline giving Murray a 6-5 lead and the Scot duly levelled the match on the following point before bellowing a huge roar of relief.
"I came up with some important passes in the tiebreak," Murray said in a BBC post-match interview. "He was serving huge and going for everything but I managed to hang in there."
Tsonga stomped back to his chair at the end of the set, hurling his racket to the grass, probably sensing his hopes of deflating a nation had just vanished.
He hung on grimly at the start of the third set but the fireworks he had produced to keep Murray at full stretch fizzled out.
Murray broke serve in a 10-minute third game and quickly got on top of a dispirited opponent.
It had all been so different in the first set which began in front of a crowd still coming to terms with top seed Roger Federer's defeat by Tomas Berdych.
Tsonga had never played a match before on Centre Court but in a rather subdued atmosphere he quickly began to feel at home, playing some old-fashioned serve and volley tennis.
A beautiful volley at 6-5 settled a tense opening set in his favour. Murray sped into a 3-0 lead in the second set only to be pegged back to 3-3.
Sensing a two-set lead Tsonga continued to attack in the second tiebreak but the match ultimately hinged on his first moment of caution.
Murray, bidding to become Britain's first men's singles champion here since 1936, will face Nadal for the fifth time in a grand slam hoping to avenge a drubbing in 2008 when the Spaniard went on to win the title.
Date created : 2010-06-30