Olympics: Tsonga Defeats Raonic 25-23 in Decider, Match Sets Record for Longest Set of Tennis Played at the Olympics

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In a long match that started at noon on court 1 and finished just before 7pm, partly due to a rain delay early in the third set, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Milos Raonic, 6-3 3-6 25-23.  The match broke records for the longest set of tennis played at the Olympics.  The third set alone lasted three hours.

5th seed Tsonga held in his opening service game, after initially going 15-30.  He then applied the pressure to the hard-serving Raonic, whose game has developed this past year.  Raonic’s forehands are now a notable aspect of his game.  However, Raonic had a shaky start to the match and he missed a volley to get broken, 0-2*.  Tsonga easily consolidated his break with a pair of aces.

While Raonic was initially hitting his forehands far outside the lines, he eventually found a balance and started to challenge Tsonga.  He missed a break back chance, but managed to take Tsonga to deuce on his serve.  Tsonga was forced to work his way to a 5-2* lead, before he successfully served for the first set, 6-3.

In the second set, Raonic tried different tactics, charging to the net and trying to add variation to his game.  His efforts paid off when he broke Tsonga to go up 2*-0 and his traditionally strong serve allowed him to consolidate easily.  Meanwhile, Tsonga battled his own forehand demons, as he went for too much and hit long on many points.  Raonic served out the 2nd set to love, 6-3.

In the deciding set, Tsonga hit an impressive volley that skimmed the line and gave him the hold.  At 2-1*, rain started to fall and the match was suspended.  Once play resumed, the two players continued to play a close match on serve, although Tsonga could not get to deuce on the Canadian’s serve.  By the time Raonic held to love at 9-9, it was evident that this match would become a battle of nerves and serves, mixed in with stylish lobs from Tsonga and the occasionally strong shotmaking from Raonic.  Tsonga held to 15 to go up 10-9* on serve, but Raonic tossed in a nice backhand down the line to hold his next service game, as if to retaliate for Tsonga’s easy hold earlier.

At 11-10*, neither player had won more than a point off his opponent’s serve for the past six games.  Tsonga had to save BP, when he served a double-fault, but he managed to hold for 12-11*.  The Tsonga-Raonic match broke the record for longest set played at the singles Olympics tennis events, when Tsonga held at 16-15*.  The previous record was 30 games from the 2004 Athens Olympics, when Fernando Gonzalez defeated Taylor Dent, 16-14 in the deciding set, to win the bronze medal.  Tsonga had a MP when Raonic served to stay in the match at 15*-16, but Raonic managed to hold.

Raonic started to show signs of losing focus, as he faced greater difficulty holding serve.

Despite the great length of the match, and the impressive winners that made rare appearances, the match was not exactly played at a consistently high level.  Tsonga did not play as creatively as he is wont to do, while the constant barrage of Raonic’s serves and aces afforded sparse entertainment — Raonic could not string together enough points to break Tsonga’s serve.  Eventually, Raonic held for 18*-18.  At 20-19*, the match broke the record for the longest set of tennis played at the Olympics (previous record was a women’s doubles match at the 1988 Olympics, which went to 38 games).  As Raonic served to stay in the match at 20*-21, he was showing visible signs of tiring.  Tsonga went up 0-30 on the Raonic serve, only to lose his chance for a break when he hit two loose backhands.  Still, Tsonga played great defense to earn his second MP after reaching deuce on the Raonic serve — only for Raonic to save it with a body serve and hold for 21-21.

Finally, at 24-23*, with the help of the net cord, Tsonga gained 3 MPs.  After Raonic saved the first, Tsonga played an impressively entertaining point, in which he picked himself up after falling on the ground, to win the point and with it the match, 6-3 3-6 25-23.

In summary, Tsonga hit 60 winners and 27 UFEs to Raonic’s 74 winners and 40 UFEs.  Raonic had 23 aces (7 doubles faults) to Tsonga’s 17 aces (6 double faults).  The BP conversion rate explains why the last set lasted as long as it did: for the entire match, Tsonga converted 2/5 BPs while Raonic managed to convert 1/8.

In R3, Tsonga will play the winner of the match between Juan Monaco and Feliciano Lopez.

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