Within the traditions and steeps of history that surround the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, there is one man who ignites an electric spark within the spectators like no other.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brings smiles to the faces of the Wimbledon faithful, and he is now one win away from making his first Wimbledon final, his second Grand Slam final and his first since the Australian Open in 2008.
However, there is one man that stands in the way of Tsonga and the possibility of parading his victory dance on Sunday.
That man is Andy Murray.
The world No. 4 is the favourite to make the Wimbledon final from the bottom half of the draw and has started to show signs of his very best form with victories over Marin Cilic and David Ferrer.
The Scot has even shown a maturity not before associated with his game.
It seems the days when he would take his frustration out on his team live on the court are gone. He showed exemplary mind-set and composure in dealing with the rain delays that hampered his straight-sets win over Cilic.
Tsonga, in comparison, has had an impressive Wimbledon so far.
He brushed aside Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, cruised past Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second—despite dropping the first set—and then made his way through to the fourth round with a straight-sets win over Lukas Lacko.
It was in the fourth round against Mardy Fish that Tsonga showed why he is now an ever-present fixture in the latter stages of Grand Slams.
Fish won the first set with a break of serve, but Tsonga came through in four, despite a series of rain delays and an injury timeout, with an array of powerful groundstrokes. The Frenchman also survived a second-set scare against Philipp Kohlschreiber to advance through to the semifinals.
However, their head-to-head is one-sided. Murray boasts a 5-1 record over Tsonga and has not lost to the world No. 6 since the first round of the Australian Open in 2008.
Their closest encounters came on grass in 2010 and 2011.
Murray beat Tsonga 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals two years ago and triumphed 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to take the Queen's title last year. Both were thrilling matches, but Tsonga has come a long way since then.
Beating Roger Federer in five sets in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year and holding four match points against Novak Djokovic at the French Open just a month ago both prove how far the Frenchman has come in the space of a year-and-a-half. He can now be labelled among the "best of the rest" alongside Murray.
The Frenchman has the weapons to hurt the Scot. He is arguably the first man in Murray’s half of the draw who can seriously hurt him on grass from both the baseline and at the net.
If Murray is to make his first Wimbledon final, he must play his own game but also be tactical with how he deals with Tsonga. It seems the days have gone when Tsonga would disappear on the court, with his astonishing winners turning into non-stop, erratic unforced errors.
This will be a battle between two men in top form.
Murray has a challenge on his hands, and while who will win is uncertain, Tsonga will give everything to end British hopes and reignite the presence of French tennis at the very top of the men’s game.
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