Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dug deep to outlast Canadian Milos Raonic 25-23 in the final set of an epic Olympic tussle on Tuesday that echoed the famous Wimbledon 2010 marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.
In the longest three-set match in Olympic tennis history, fifth seed Tsonga prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in 3 hours, 57 minutes to reach the round-of-16. The third set alone lasted three hours.
American Isner and Frenchman Mahut memorably fought each other to a standstill on Wimbledon’s grass courts, before Isner won in an astonishing 11 hour, 5 minute battle.
Tsonga still found the energy to skip around the court kissing his shirt in celebration.
“For me it’s good, because this is the only way to write my name in the history for the moment,” a smiling Tsonga told reporters. “With Rafa [Nadal], Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic], even Andy [Murray], it’s tough to go through big tournaments. So I’m really happy. I hope I will have some more.”
Second seed Djokovic, Wimbledon runner-up Murray, three-time Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams and women’s top seed Victoria Azarenka were among others advancing to the third round on a busy day at Wimbledon, attended by Prince Albert of Monaco.
Serbian Djokovic, continuing his quest to better his Beijing bronze medal, breezed to a 6-2, 6-1 win in less than an hour over Andy Roddick of the US, whose stars and stripes trainers failed to inspire him.
“Today, everything was working perfectly well, and I was neutralizing his serve by getting a lot of returns back in the court and serving a lot of aces,” said Djokovic, who next faces Australian Lleyton Hewitt. “You’re not playing for yourself like you are most of the time throughout the year. This is one of the unique events, unique opportunities to play for your country and the nation is cheering for you.”
Britain’s Murray, who has played both his singles matches under the Centre Court roof due to rain, made light work of Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen to book his place in the last 16, winning 6-2, 6-4.
To the delight of the home crowd, Murray, whose last match against Nieminen at Wimbledon in 2010 was played in front of Queen Elizabeth II, broke his opponent in the first game and again in the fifth to quickly take a 4-1 lead, before wrapping up the set.
Nieminen fought back energetically, saving a match point before going head first over the barriers when chasing a backhand in the next game. Murray, leading 5-4, secured the victory with an ace.
Third seed Murray next faces Marcos Baghdatis, against whom he dropped a set in their third-round meeting at Wimbledon, for a place in the quarter-finals after the Cypriot knocked out France’s Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4.
“He will have the upper hand against me, but you know, I will just go out there and give it a try, you never know,” world No. 44 Baghdatis, who kissed the grass court in celebration after his second-round win, said of his upcoming clash against Murray. “I am in the 16s of an Olympic event and that’s an incredible thing for me, and I hope I will keep going.”
Injury-prone Hewitt clinched a surprise win over 13th seed Croatian Marin Cilic 6-4, 7-5.
“I’m getting wins against quality players again, and I had some doubts because when you’ve been through as many surgeries as I have and tough times, it makes it all the more sweet,” the former Wimbledon champion said. “Obviously, it’s going to be tough, he’s [Djokovic] one of the favorites to get a medal here, but I’m going to go out and play my game. I’ve got nothing to lose.”