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A new Marathon Record for Olympics

Tsonga defeats Raonic 25-23 in the 3rd; Roddick shut out


July 31, 2012 | 05:09 PM

Ghosts of Isner and Mahut still inhabit the grounds at Wimbledon, where today on Court One they affected two huge servers, Canadian Milos Raonic and #5 seed Jo Tsonga. Milos, who served more aces this year than anyone but Isner, has been a marathoner waiting his day.

Without a tie-breaker to end 3rd sets at the Olympics, there have been some long 3rd sets here this week, but the previous record for games played in match was held by a women's doubles foursome.

Today's marathon set wasn't 70-68, but at 25-23 it did tie the 2nd longest final set on record in the Open era for men (Newcombe def. Riessen in the '69 Open). At exactly 3 hours long, this set no doubt Tsonga converted his 3rd match point with stunning defense on Raonic's serve, ending with a lob-drop volley-put away sequence worthy of the Frenchman's art. His previous match point opportunities came at 16-15 and 21-20 on the Roanic serve, and he faced a break point at 11-11. After bludgeoning serves and groundies at each other for almost 4 hours - 3 hours exactly in the 3rd set - neither could stop smiling and Jo had enough energy afterward to jump and dance about.

Were Milos to look back at the stats in this match, he might feel worse about not having come out on top: he had break points to Jo's 5 (he was 1 of 8, Jo 2 of 5), hit more forehand and backhand winners (95 to 84), more aces (23 to 17), was as successful coming forward as the flying Frenchman (converting 75% of 84 points at net - over a third of his points - to Jo's 77%, 43 of 66), defended 27 fewer 2nd serve points with about the same success rate as Jo (57% to 60%, both very high), and even won 2 more points in total.

Their first two sets were mirror images of each other, with each man going out to a 3-0 lead and holding the advantage to convert at 6-3 (Jo won the 1st, lost the 2nd). As even as the 3rd set was, their tennis in the 3rd was at a very high quality, much higher than the quality during most of Isner and Mahut's 5th set.

Although the stakes in this match may also have seemed higher for them than for Isner and Mahut, relatively little may be made of this one except for the possible impact on the Jo in his next rounds. Jo will get no rest, as he's still in the doubles where he and Michael Llodra (seeded second) are only in the 2nd round and will face a skilled Indian team (Paes and Vardhan) before a possible encounter with 5th seeds Berdych and Stepanek. His singles draw is daunting and will also resume tomorrow versus another excellent server and attacker, Feliciano Lopez (a 3 set winner over #9 seed Juan Monaco today). And beating the Spaniard will only buy him a chance to play JOKER in the quarters.

In other men's singles action today, seeds moved on: Murray, Ferrer, Nishikori and Almagro are into the round of 16 without difficulty. The top 3 men will each face a surprise opponent:

- For JOKER, it's Leyton Hewitt, ranked only 157 but fresh from a grass court final appearance in Newport two weeks ago, upset #13 seed Marin Cilic , 6-4, 7-5

- for MURRAY, it's Marcos Baghdatis defeated #16 seed Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 6-4

- For FED, it's Uzbeki Denis Istomin, who outlasted Austrian gilles Muller 7-6, 6-7, 7-5

In the quarters, only Murray may continue without a threat (he's looking at the winner between #11 Almagro and Steve Darcis, a 28 year old journeyman from Belgium).

FED will face the winner of #10 ISNER and #7 Tipsarevic.

JOKER will face Tsonga or Lopez.

Draws aside, the stars might align for Andy to break through. If he does at these Wimbledon Olympics, he could be a force on the hard courts he loves at the Open. For this to happen, he'll need to serve the way he did today: 66% 1st serves in play; 81% of 2nd serve points converted.

As for our Andy (Roddick), his time seemed past when Joker dismantled him today 6-2, 6-1 by out-serving him: 14 aces to 5; 86% conversion of 1st serve points to compared to a dismal 54% for Andy.

WOMEN

Eleven seeds have advanced to the 3rd round (round of 16). Notables eliminated are Radwanska (2nd), Stosur (5th) and Na Li (10th). Joining the seeds are two champions, VENUS and CLIJSTERS, along with the high achiever of the year, Julie Goerges, Flavia Pennetta, and Daniela Hantuchova.

DOUBLES

No major upsets in the doubles have occurred yet, but the 2nd round isn't complete. With as many top singles players involved, a slew of completely new pairs (like the unfortunate Roddick and Isner), and fewer established teams who aren't siblings (stars like the Bryans and Williams; others like Murrays and Radwanska), it will be shocking if seeds don't start dropping soon.

RICK

Olympic tennis 7.31.12


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