It was merely the latest in a string of masterful performances for Tsonga, who claimed his second Masters 1000 title as a result. The ATP World Tour captured the moment on Twitter after the tiebreak in the second set:
Tsonga simply bulldozed Federer thanks to his serves, but it helped that the Swiss star barely won 20 percent of his total return points and repeatedly shot himself in the foot while behind.
ESPN.com's Howard Bryant notes that Tsonga seems finally back to form after injuries derailed his 2013 campaign:
Throwback tourney from Tsonga. Hasn't been the same player since the knee injury at Wimbledon '13. Nice to see.— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 10, 2014
Federer, the No. 2 seed, entered seeking his third title of the year to make it 80 on his career, but a 2-4 mark in finals this season hinted that Sunday's encounter would be more difficult than advertised against a No. 13 seed.
He even went out of his way before the match to emphasize just how much of a threat Tsonga presented. "I just think he can overpower guys," Federer said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Serve up a storm and then play really aggressive with his forehand and also be solid on his backhand. You think you're in a safe place sometimes in the rally, and he takes one step and just hits it, and the point is over."
Tsonga personified over the course of the past week how little seeding truly matters. He knocked off three higher-ranked opponents to make it through to Sunday. Upsets over No. 1 Novak Djokovic (6-2, 6-2), No. 8 Andy Murray (7-6, 4-6, 6-4) and No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov (6-4, 6-3) did much to build momentum.
In other words, a career mark of 4-11 against Federer meant little. Tsonga had not won in straight sets against Djokovic in their prior 11 encounters. He had not beaten Murray in eight previous tries.
Federer's warnings and that snowballing momentum proved true in the first set.
The two were eight games into it at 4-4 with no break points, with the match just begging somebody to take control. But every time Tsonga jumped out in the lead, Federer rebounded to tie. As the tournament's Twitter account notes, the French star put on some epic moves to fend off his adversary:
In the end, though, Tsonga was able to pull away and claim the first set after serving up six aces and winning better than 90 percent of his first-service opportunities.
Federer did not help himself with errors, but Tsonga was clearly beginning to find a groove and play more consistently. Really, it was more of the same in that the 17-time Grand Slam champ would fall behind by a game, only to rally back and do it all over again.
Of course, Federer was doing it in style, as always. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times colorfully illustrated a single shot that wowed the crowd Sunday:
Feel like I'm gonna see that last Roger Federer point on all those "Best of Federer he is my God" YouTube montages. Ridiculous volleying.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 10, 2014
Up 4-3 in the second set, Tsonga did commit a critical error and wasted his final challenge on a rather obvious exchange. He seemed to unravel a bit and jawed at the crowd as Federer saved the championship point at 5-5.
But once more, Federer was inconsistent at best. As the broadcast noted, he had 12.1 unforced errors per set in each match leading up to the final but was well in the neighborhood of 16 Sunday.
Sports Illustrated notes how this up-and-down play allowed Tsonga to assume control once more:
Huge effort from Federer to save match point and hold but after an easy service game by Tsonga he’ll serve to stay in the match at *5-6.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) August 10, 2014
This bled into a tiebreak, which saw Tsonga jump out to a major advantage thanks to his booming serve. Even in the face of the hostile crowd, he held on to take the win as Federer's serve could not match.
After hoisting the hardware, Tsonga was gracious toward his opponent, as captured by Sportsnet's Arash Madani:
Jo-Willie Tsonga: "First of all, I'd like to thank Roger for what he has done for tennis, for us. I respect you so much."— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) August 10, 2014
Next up for both men is the 2014 Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, an event won by Rafael Nadal last season. It was Nadal who upended Federer in the quarterfinals, while Tsonga missed out on the festivities in what was a miserable season overall thanks to injury.
It is an important proving ground for both men with the U.S. Open looming at the end of the month. Sunday's winner must prove he can carry this elite play for a long stretch of time, while Federer has much to prove in order to reverse his woeful performances in finals this season.