PARIS – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s surprisingly straightforward 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over second-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland on Tuesday at the French Open tennis tournament could be seen through two different lenses.
It could be seen through the lens of a Federer analyst, who now has more confirmation of a great and classy champion’s slow fade from Grand Slam power.
There were hints aplenty under pressure in the brilliant Paris sunshine: shots off the frame; leaps that did not appear to leave as much space between the red clay and Federer’s sneakers as usual; and even — gasp — missed overheads.
“Missing smashes goes hand in hand with missing so many other things,” said Federer, sounding more melancholy than devastated.
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But there was also the much more rose-colored lens available to Tsonga observers, of which there will millions more than usual in France after this stirring performance.
Tsonga, a 28-year-old Frenchman, does not yet have a major title.
But he undeniably has charisma, like France’s last men’s singles champion at Roland Garros: Yannick Noah, who won in 1983 and remains one of France’s most popular men 30 years later.
Asked what kind of relationship he had with Noah, now a popular singer, Tsonga said: “Well, when he sings, I dance. That’s my relationship. When he says something to me, I listen to him.”
It seems early to start talking about history repeating itself. The pretournament favorites — seven-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain and top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia — are in contention in the other half of the draw and on course for a semifinal showdown.
But the sixth-seeded Tsonga seemingly has an opening in his half with a semifinal Friday against fourth-seeded David Ferrer, a Spaniard who has never reached a major final.