Out-of-form Nadal dumped out by Tsonga
Rafael Nadal struggled with the unpredictable London weather and his own sub-standard form as he crashed out of the AEGON Championships at the quarter-final stage against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
An off-colour Nadal had surprisingly required three sets to see off Radek Stepanek in the previous round, and he found himself on the back foot again for long periods against power-merchant Tsonga. The world No. 1 took the first set, but Tsonga deservedly hit back for a 6-7(3) 6-4 6-1 victory.
The pair were contesting their first ever head-to-head encounter on grass, with Nadal winning five of six clashes on other surfaces. However, by the time they completed the opening service game they will have felt like long-term rivals, having twice left the court due to rain before four points had even been played.
When they returned, Nadal had extreme difficulty reading the Tsonga serve, which fired down 16 aces in the first set alone. Only in the 11th game did Nadal create three break points, all saved by the Frenchman as they went to a tiebreak. Mental strength was required, and nobody is stronger in that department than Nadal as he secured the advantage.
Tsonga was clearly up for a fight though, and he immediately broke in second, only to be answered straight away by Nadal for 1-1. More break points came Tsonga's way in the fifth game as Nadal clung on, but a superb backhand winner saw Tsonga create two further break chances in the ninth, which he converted to force a deciding set.
Nadal exited the competition at the quarter-final stage last year and still went on to win Wimbledon, but he looked visibly angry with his game as Tsonga threatened his first victory over a world No. 1 since he beat Roger Federer in 2009. For the second consecutive set he broke Nadal in his first service game, drilling a cross-court backhand that proved too hot to handle for the Spaniard.
In an extremely foreign experience for Nadal, it was his rival exerting a clear power advantage, and a second break had spectators believing for the first time that the top seed was heading out. That scenario was eventually confirmed by Tsonga's fifth break of the match, and the Frenchman will now face the winner of James Ward v Adrian Mannarino.
Re: Out-of-form Nadal dumped out by Tsonga
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