France's rising star Jo Wilfried Tsonga quit the Montreal Masters mid-match with an injured forearm on Saturday, allowing world number one and rival contender Novak Djokovic to easily advance to the final round.
REUTERS - World number one Novak Djokovic advanced to the final of the Montreal Masters when Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga retired trailing 6-4 3-0 on Saturday, leaving the sensational Serb on the brink of a record-smashing title.
Tsonga’s retirement with an injured forearm provided a shock ending to their mouth-watering Wimbledon semi-final rematch but the Frenchman’s surrender in the face of the Djokovic juggernaut seemed almost predictable.
Djokovic will now take on in-form American Mardy Fish in Sunday’s final and have the chance to become the first to capture five Masters series titles in a single season.
Tsonga said the injury had dogged him for three days and the pain had worsened in that time.
“It was difficult for me to hit the ball well and hard. That’s why I took this decision.
“I don’t have the pretension to beat Novak without my arm.”
Tsonga came into the contest holding a 5-3 edge in head-to-head meetings and had been in superb form in Montreal, counting two-time champion Roger Federer among his scalps.
But few tennis players have enjoyed a more spectacular campaign than Djokovic, who extended his match record to a dazzling 52-1, a magical run that has so far produced eight titles, including Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
“He plays incredible tennis but he’s not an alien,” said Tsonga. “In fact, what he does is doing everything better than the others ... He doesn’t hit harder, he doesn’t hit the ball earlier. But he’s always there.
“He does not have the best return on the tour.
“But on every return, he returns well, and he’s always there. So what does it is his consistency, and he has no weaknesses.”
A Montreal crown would cap a perfect start to the Serb’s reign as the world’s top ranked player, making him the first since Pete Sampras in 1993 to win an ATP tournament on debut as number one.
“It doesn’t come by surprise, I have been playing this well throughout the whole season,” said Djokovic. “So I’m just trying to keep that up.
“I put a lot of hours on the court and off the court working hard ... So it’s not something that comes with the talent or something like that, it’s really hard work and dedication.”
The Wimbledon rematch got off to a riveting start, the two men trading punches in an electrifying opening set that was decided when Djokovic finally broke the athletic Frenchman at 5-4, celebrating with a clenched fist pump and a mighty roar of satisfaction.
But much of the drama evaporated in the second set, as Djokovic immediately broke Tsonga on the way to a 3-0 lead.
Showing no sign of distress, Tsonga called for the trainers during the changeover and after a brief discussion picked up his bag and walked off court to a shower of boos.
Djokovic can expect plenty of fight from a feisty Fish, who earlier swept past Serb Janko Tipsarevic 6-3 6-4 to reach his third consecutive final.
Fish has tapped into a rich vein of form in the build-up to the U.S. Open, winning in Atlanta and reaching the Los Angeles final, and is brimming with confidence heading into the Flushing Meadows.
“I’ll have to play my absolute best and then some (to beat Djokovic),” said Fish. “If I play the way I played today, I’m certainly capable of beating a lot of players.
“This is a long ways into the tournament now and you can see the finish line. So there’s no holding back anymore.”