Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hit Roger Federer with an unpleasant Wimbledon flashback on Thursday, brushing aside the Swiss maestro 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-1 to book his place in an unlikely quarter-final lineup at the Rogers Cup.
Federer came into the third round encounter seeking revenge on the Frenchman who had dashed his bid for a seventh Wimbledon crown five weeks ago by storming back from two sets down to steal a shock last-eight win.
The venue may have changed, but the result was the same, as Tsonga again proved stronger in the closing stages than the world No. 3, winning an entertaining contest packed with dazzling rallies that delighted a packed center court crowd.
“He beat me at Wimbledon, so I don’t know how much of a surprise it is,” Federer, a two-time winner in Canada, told reporters. “He’s playing well. I thought if he was going to play well again and me not at my best, he could do it again. He’s confident right now.”
Federer’s exit capped a surprising few days on the Canadian hard courts, with three of the world’s top four failing to reach the quarter-finals.
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain, a double winner in Canada, and No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain, the two-time defending champion, both lost their opening matches to leave Novak Djokovic as the only former champion left in the draw.
Djokovic, the winner in 2007, continued to settle into his new role as world No. 1 with a business-like 7-5, 6-2 third-round victory over Croatian Marin Cilic that extended his season record to a spectacular 50-1.
Federer and Tsonga appeared on center court wearing almost identical blue shirts and white shorts, but their play was a dramatic contrast in styles, the silky smooth Swiss sparring with the beefy Frenchman.
Playing with the supreme confidence mined from his Wimbledon upset, the 13th-seeded Frenchman landed the first blow by taking the opening set in a tie-break 7-3, finishing off Federer with a vicious forehand, but Federer, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday, showed he was still up for a fight, hitting back with an early break then holding on to level the match at a set apiece.
Tsonga was in no mood to back down, though, and he broke Federer at the next opportunity, putting the 16-time Grand Slam winner in a hole he was unable to climb out of.
“I really played well tonight,” Tsonga said. “I was opportunistic, able to break before he did. I’m very happy the way I won this match, but all the players keep improving ... I believe that no player can be spared. Look at Rafa who lost, and Murray. The only one remaining above everybody else is Djokovic.”
Making his competitive debut as world No. 1 in Montreal, Djokovic said the position carried added pressure and responsibility, but instead of wilting under the weight of expectation, the Serb has embraced his elite status with vigor.
Djokovic’s third-round performance was more functional than flashy as he tamed the big-hitting Cilic with a combination of solid tactics and ground-strokes on a blustery center court.
“It wasn’t really a beautiful match to play and to watch, but I guess in the right moments, I was trying to keep the ball in court, make my opponent make an unforced error,” Djokovic said.
French Open champion Li Na played like a “junior,” while Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova were all also sent packing after rusty performances in the third round at the Rogers Cup on Thursday.