Tsonga bows out as Queen's shocks continue
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the latest star to suffer a shock exit from the pre-Wimbledon warm-up at Queen’s Club as the world number five was beaten 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) by Croatia’s Ivan Dodig on Thursday.
With top seed Andy Murray, fourth seed Gilles Simon and four-time Queen’s champions Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt already eliminated from the grass-court event, it seems Tsonga had a golden opportunity to go all the way.
But the Frenchman, seeded second, produced a lethargic display and world number 69 Dodig took full advantage to claim one of the best wins of his career.
Tsonga reached the final here last year, losing to Murray, and became the first player ever to beat Roger Federer from two sets down at a grand slam in the Wimbledon quarter-finals a few weeks later.
With that kind of pedigree on grass, Tsonga was the clear favourite. But Dodig, who defeated Rafael Nadal in Montreal last year, played with freedom and confidence, while Tsonga was a shadow of the vibrant force who so often over-powers opponents.
Tsonga must have hoped his experience would prove decisive when the first set went to a tie-break.
Instead, the former Australian Open finalist produced an error-strewn effort that allowed Dodig to secure the lead.
Faced with the prospect of a surprise exit, Tsonga finally began to find his touch and he unfurled some sumptuous winners to break for a 4-3 lead in the second set.
One more break from Tsonga levelled the match at one-set all, but Dodig dug deep in the decider and saved two break points at 2-3 before Tsonga was forced to save one himself with a flashing winner at 5-5.
Again it needed a tie-break to seperate them and on match point Tsonga paid the price for a loose forehand that flew long and gifted the win to Dodig.
Dodig will face 2010 Queen’s winner Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals after the American defeated Julien Benneteau 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Earlier, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson advanced to the last eight for the first time after defeating Spanish fifth seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (12/10), 7-6 (9/7).
Anderson, seeded ninth, had never been past the last 16 in his previous four visits, but he finally broke that sequence with an impressive victory over world number 17 Lopez.
At a towering 6ft 8in, Anderson can fire down serves with a potent combination of high bounce and fearsome power and, with his ground-strokes also improving, he has risen to 30th in the world rankings.
Lopez has solid grass-court pedigree, reaching the Queen’s semi-finals in 2010 and the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year, but he fell behind against Anderson as the 26-year-old broke for a 3-1 lead.
Anderson’s nerve failed him as he served for the set and Lopez took advantage to break back.
It took an epic tie-break to settle the set and Anderson’s composure held this time as he saved three set points before finishing it on his third set point.
The second set followed the same pattern and again it required a tense tie-break.
After missing his first match point, Anderson finally ended Lopez’s resistance to set up a quarter-final clash with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
Dimitrov ended giant-killer Nicolas Mahut’s hopes of emulating his 2007 Queen’s final appearance with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory.
Mahut had shocked world number four Andy Murray in the second round on Wednesday, but the Frenchman, who defeated Nadal en route to the final here five years ago, suffered a let-down against Dimitrov.