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Tsonga wins marathon decider 25-23

Jo Wilfried Tsonga chases a ball at the Olympic tennis at Wimbledon
by Dan Imhoff
Tuesday 31 July 2012

World records are usually reserved for talk around the pool and the track at Olympic Games but on Monday Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga set his own on Wimbledon’s No.1 Court with an epic 6-3, 2-6, 25-23 triumph over Canadian Milos Raonic.

Lasting two minutes shy of four hours it was the longest tennis match in Games history and the marathon 48-game decider alone equalled the previous record for total number of games in an Olympic match, set when Fernando Gonzalez beat Taylor Dent 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 for the bronze medal in Athens eight years ago.

“At the end I was just very happy for my country. I did it for them, and that's it. When I arrive on the court, I forget myself, and I try to play for the others," Tsonga said. “It was not easy because I have to finish on his serve, and this guy have a big serve, so it was not easy. I had many possibilities and I didn't took it. He played better than me on these points. Finally I did it, so I'm really happy."

For Raonic, the inevitable "what-ifs" were circling his mind moments after the dramatic finish.

"I was a little bit disappointed with the way I started the first three games, but after I felt like I was playing the better tennis for most of the match until probably really late in the third set," he said. "Then he was sort of creeping past me. I created a lot of opportunities for myself, so it was a little bit unfortunate I didn't make the most of them. There's a lot of good things to take, there's a lot of learning things to take from this."

Well aware the game could hinge on a single break of serve should the match reach a third set, it was the Canadian with the monster first delivery who started more nervously, dropping his opening service game to hand Tsonga a crucial gift.

Serving at 4-2 the Frenchman survived two break points – one, an attempted backhand pass from Raonic narrowly missing the net cord.

He would go on to close out the set with a love game, 6-3 after 29 minutes, but the towering 6ft 5ins Canadian was now in the groove on serve and piled the pressure on early in the second set.

Ripping a backhand to the feet of a stranded Tsonga at net, Raonic brought up a break point and converted when the Frenchman’s forehand sailed wide for 2-0.

It was the only invitation he would need, going on to serve out the set with a love game; an ace down the T levelling the match at a set apiece.

When rain caused a lengthy delay at 2-1 in the decider, a backlog in the schedule again looked likely.

As it turned out the weather proved only a fraction of the hold-up for the remaining matches due on No.1 Court.

With play resuming and both players consistently sending down first deliveries well above the 200km/h mark, games continued on serve; Raonic particularly dominant, holding a string of service games to love.

At 15-16, with Tsonga having made gradual inroads on his opponent’s booming serve, match point was seen and gone in a flash; Raonic staying alive with an ace.

At 20-21, he saved another with an ace.

For 19 games, the Canadian had held serve to stay in the match but at 23-24, he finally slipped up.

Falling behind 0-40, Raonic saved match point number three before the Frenchman clinched the marathon with a drop volley winner; the third set alone taking three hours to decide.

The London 2012 Olympic tennis is taking place at Wimbledon. Visit the ITF Olympics site for full scores, draws and the London 2012 site for video content, venue and schedule information.

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