Andy Murray overcame a fiery Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(10), 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 on Wednesday to sprint into the Wimbledon semi-finals, where he'll be the favourite to reach his third final at the All-England Club.
Murray will face Czech Tomas Berdych, who swept first-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Lucas Pouille 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2. Murray leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 8-6, including their past four meetings, but the two have never played on grass. Berdych also reached the Wimbledon final in 2010.
Murray looked like he'd waltz into his seventh Wimbledon semi-final and continue his perfect set winning streak. The Scot grabbed a tight first set on his fourth opportunity and denied Tsonga three set point chances. The Frenchman didn't regroup in time for the second, either, and Murray dashed to a two-set lead, pushing his Wimbledon set record to 14-0.
Tsonga responded strongly in the third and fourth sets, though. He blasted winners from both sides and landed a high percentage of first serves. The 31 year old hit 14 winners and 15 winners in the third and fourth sets, respectively, compared to three in the second set. He also won nearly 80 per cent of his first-serve points in the third and fourth sets, compared to just 57 per cent in the second set.
Tsonga broke Murray at 2-1 to take the third set. In the fourth set, Murray was serving at 4-all, 40/40 when Tsonga belted a run-around forehand and a backhand pass for the break. The two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist held to 15 to even the match at two sets apiece, and the Centre Court crowd roar had been muted.
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A two-sets down comeback was not unforeseeable. Tsonga had overcome the deficit four times in his career, including earlier this fortnight. In the third round, Tsonga beat American John Isner 6-7(3), 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 19-17.
But Murray would not be denied in the fifth set. He stepped into the court more often and continued to encourage the British crowd. The second seed overcame a break point in the first game and minutes later was up 4-0. The 2013 Wimbledon champion sealed the five-set win with an ace and fist pump of relief.