Roger Federer has missed out on a golden opportunity to win one of the only two masters series 1000 events to have eluded him in his illustrious career, as he has been bundled out by familiar foe Jo Wilfred Tsonga in the quarter finals on Friday. Tsonga who had rallied from a two set deficit in the Wimbledon quarter final in 2011, again came from a set down against the third ranked Swiss who was playing in his first tournament since the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Frenchman won 3-6,6-2,7-5 in two hours and six minutes.
Gael Monfils then ended the run of the lucky loser Marcel Granollers to set an all French semifinal against Tsonga which ensures that there will be a Frenchman in the final on Sunday for the first time since 2000. Monfils broke serve four times and dropped his own only once in the 74 minute encounter. Tsonga has a 4-2 edge in career meetings between the two but it will be first time they clash on clay.
Earlier on in the day Andy Murray routed Milos Raonic 6-2,6-0 in a completely one sided encounter in what was a rematch of the epic semifinal clash between the two at the Australian Open where Raonic lost in five sets to Murray after taking a 2-1 lead in sets. The Dunblane native Murray will next play the Spaniard Rafael Nadal who won this event a record eight consecutive times between 2005 to 2012. Nadal dismantled the 2014 Monte Carlo champion and the reigning French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1,6-4.
It will be the 23rd meeting between the Scott Andy Murray and the Mallorcan Rafael Nadal. Nadal leads 16-6, but the last time the two met on clay, was in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open last year where Murray triumphed in straight sets to notch up his first win against Nadal on clay and also his maiden Masters series title on clay. A week before he had won his first ever ATP event on clay, beating Philippe Kohlschreiber in the ATP 250 in Munich.
Following is the line up for the last four with my pick mentioned first and their 2016 records and also their head to head records :-
Andy Murray (2) (13-3) v. Rafael Nadal (5) (15-6); Nadal leads 16-6
Gael Monfils (13) (19-5) v. Jo Wilfred Tsonga (8) (14-6); Tsonga leads 4-2.
Murray who had disappointing third round losses at both Indian Wells and Miami will be hoping to make amends and celebrate his maiden crown after the birth of his first child in February, while Nadal will be hoping to equal Djokovic’s tally of 28 ATP 1000 titles with a win on Sunday. Expect this one to be a classic and a tight three setter. Nadal has had a ten month title drought since winning on grass in Stuttgart prior to Wimbledon.
Monfils had also reached the final of the Rotterdam ATP 500 event loosing to Martin Klizan but has had a consistent run in 2016. He should take advantage of Tsonga’s fatigue and emotionally draining win over Roger Federer where he came within two points of losing the match. No matter the result it ensures a French finalist for the first time since 2000 when two time grand slam runner up Cedric Pioline went on to claim the title. Monfils in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]