Tsonga winning with aplomb
Henri Leconte, the retired Grand Slam finalist, couldn't hide his excitement in the booth as fellow Frenchman Tsonga eliminated an ill Djokovic 7-6 (8), 6-7 (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals to cap one of the wackiest days in recent Grand Slam memory.
All four winners were in deep trouble.
Casting objectiveness aside, the humorous Leconte rooted for Tsonga and almost fell out of his chair when Tsonga struck a winner in the fifth after hustling to chase a drop volley. Wonder what the more serious -- and verbose -- Jim Courier, part of the team for host broadcaster Channel 7, made of his antics.
When it was over, Leconte hustled courtside to give Tsonga a hug.
"I'm very passionate," Leconte, whose output on tour never matched his enormous talent, said Thursday. "It's just the way I am."
Imagine Leconte's reaction if Tsonga upsets Roger Federer in Friday's semifinal.
Tsonga is brimming with confidence, having just won his first two career five-set tussles back-to-back. He displayed mental toughness in the fourth round against sleeping giant Nicolas Almagro, soaking up pressure on serve in the fifth and pouncing on his lone chance to prevail 9-7. This while nursing a bad wrist.
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
In truth, Djokovic, who was suffering the aftereffects of diarrhea and vomited off court in the fourth, will be kicking himself for not winning in three. He blew break leads twice in the first.
"I feel good," Tsonga told reporters. "I won two tough matches. Why not against Roger?"
Irrespective of Djokovic's health, Tsonga played great defense in the latter stages as the Serb went for broke, and he served big at key moments, all the while the crowd on his side.
Yes, Djokovic still has a hard time winning over fans, even when he's suffering.
Federer warmed up for the clash with a four-set win over Nikolay Davydenko, who was unable to build on victories over the Swiss in London and Doha, Qatar. Federer, the 15-time Grand Slam champion he is, sensed the Russian was in trouble, and Davydenko squandered an easy break point while leading 6-2, 3-1. The next hour was ugly, and Federer cruised 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 to land in a 23rd straight Grand Slam semifinal. Unbelievable.
In his first tournament since becoming a father to twins last summer, Federer fell to Tsonga in a strange semifinal at the Canadian Open 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (3). Behind 5-1 in the third, Tsonga let loose on his returns, going for broke, and engineered a massive comeback.
"That's what Jo does," Federer told reporters back then. "He doesn't make a return for three hours, then he puts in a few, and then all of a sudden he's back in the match."
But as Davydenko found out -- again -- whatever happened in the past is the past. A Grand Slam is a different animal.
Tsonga, the 2008 finalist, downplayed his relative lack of experience.
"It's good to have experience, but for that you have to win," Tsonga said. "Roger has experience because he's won 15 Grand Slams. But he won the first one, and without experience. So I think at this level you never know what's going to happen."
Tsonga, according to Leconte, needs to serve huge and finish off points quickly. He expects Federer to attack, and not stay back.
"Jo has a chance," Leconte said. "He just has to really believe it."
Prediction: Federer in three.
Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
2010 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Women's singles: Serena Williams, United States
Roger Federer, Switzerland
Men's doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Cara Black/Leander Paes
Slam Central »
Slam Tracker »
Follow us on Twitter »