Andy Murray battled past a spirited and confident Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the Aegon Championships final in three sets. The Dunblane native came through a tough encounter 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 and was forced to labour against an elegant yet unorthodox opponent.
Tsonga was the aggressor as both men sparred on their serves and held easily. The flamboyant Frenchmen threw a mixed bag Murray’s way, serving and volleying whilst chipping and charging on the second serve.
He was the first to pile on the pressure and the highlight reel shots began to flow in the fifth game. Two bullets on both the forehand and backhand side gave Tsonga the break with his first chance.
The Frenchman then began to have some fun. A few overhead rockets and diving blocks at the net delighted the Queen’s Club crowd. They weren’t ill-placed shots either. Tsonga held to go 5-2 up after plucking out a sky-high lob from Murray. Read more (540 words)
But a curving cross-court pass by Murray gave him an inroad back into the match. At 15-40 in the eighth game, the Scot was in the ascendancy with Tsonga serving for the set. Nevertheless, a looping, heavy second serve and a routine miss from Murray gave the unpredictable Tsonga the first set.
At 3-3 in the second, one Brit seemingly galvanized Murray. “I want to hear you roar!” he cried. The Scot then held to bring the score to 4-3 and Tsonga, serving with new balls, faced an onslaught from the spirited Murray.
In the gladiatorial struggle that was the eighth game, the two saw five deuces over eleven minutes. But it seemed luck was against Murray. A shrewd pass with Tsonga stranded brought him a break point – Murray’s hopes soon dashed by a challenged Tsonga ace and a lucky let chord.
Again, Murray had a chance when Tsonga cracked a forehand long in a gruelling, testing rally. But Tsonga’s instinctive point-playing saw him risk a serve and volley to bring it back to deuce.
When Tsonga then hit the net after again rushing in on his serve, it was advantage Murray again. The Scot tried to capitalise on a short Tsonga serve but was left deflated when he hit an open forehand into the net. With steely nerves playing a part again, Tsonga smashed home two aces and finally held to level the score at 4-4.
Both men displayed athletic and skilful prowess across the set – one rally saw Murray hit a shot between the legs and Tsonga reply with a diving winner at the net. Seemingly inseparable, the two entertained and reached a tie-break.
Murray tore up the previous script for a swashbuckling tie-break with tricky, intricate shots and ground out the breaker in a business-like fashion. In an act which mirrored the way the tie-breaker went, Murray sealed it 7-2 with a serve out wide and Tsonga scrambling across towards the first row, swinging a racket in vain hope.
The world number four finally began to get a sniff at Tsonga’s unerring serve. He gained his eighth and ninth break points of the match in the third game. Tsonga, of Congolese descent, seemed to wilt in the sun when serving at 2-2.
He gave his opponent a golden ticket towards the finish line with a forehand dumped long. Murray began to turn the screws hard and had Tsonga running with a pinpoint accurate cross court forehand. The Frenchman could only hurl it wide on break point - Murray's first break of the match - then found himself 4-2 down after a simple Murray hold.
Whilst it is usually Tsonga who is the showman of the match, an invigorated Murray decided to have some fun of his own. He scored with an outrageous between the legs finish at the net whilst serving at 4-3 up.
Adding insult to Tsonga’s injury and bruised gameplan, Murray held with ease through the decider and finished him off with a Tsonga special – an overhead smash worthy of the Frenchman himself.
His easing past Andy Roddick and wriggling past Tsonga have put Murray in good stead before Wimbledon. With a blossoming mindset and tired body, Murray will ease off for a few days before SW19 – where he will surely be amongst the top contenders.