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Tennis

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beats Roger Federer to win Rogers Cup

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga capped off a stunning week of tennis by defeating No. 3 Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6 (3) to win his second ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The 29-year-old Frenchman lost just one set all week while defeating No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 9 Andy Murray, No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov and Federer to become the first man since Guillermo Canas in Toronto in 2002 to defeat four straight top-ten players en route to a title. The win boosts Tsonga back into the top ten, while Federer drops to 2-5 in finals this year. 

This was Tsonga's most destructive week of tennis since the 2008 Australian Open: And it came out of nowhere. The 2014 season has not been a memorable one for Tsonga. He came into Toronto yet to win a title and had slipped to No. 15. His tennis has been marred with a lack of focus and direction. Sure, he made the fourth round of all three majors with losses to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer -- no shame in that -- but the losses were non-competitive straight set matches. For a player with such a physical and dynamic game-style that is, at its best, an exciting brand of tennis as haymaker pugilism, the drop-off made you wonder if we had seen the best that Tsonga had to offer. He came into the tournament 0-7 against top-ten players this year. His last win over a top ten player was over a year ago at the French Open where he beat...Federer.

Aside from losing a set to Murray in the quarterfinals, Tsonga routined the game's hottest players. Wimbledon champion Djokovic was on and off the court in 63 minutes. Wimbledon semifinalist Dimitrov was gone in less than 90 minutes. Against Federer on Sunday it was Tsonga who was unnerved at the prospect of winning his biggest title since his first Masters title in 2008. As Federer tried to take advantage of the quick Toronto courts with his netplay, going 27 of 33, Tsonga didn't let the frustration get to him. He took the first set by securing the only break of the match when Federer served at 5-6. In the second set he continued to push Federer in his service games. The Swiss had to save match point when serving at 4-5 in a long deuce game that put Federer's desperate desire to win on full display. But once again with the pressure on Federer blinked. He went too big on a high-bouncing ball deep behind the court and flew a backhand well long to give Tsonga the minibreak he needed to run away with it. 

Big serve, big confidence: The courts in Toronto were extremely fast this year and Tsonga's serving was his biggest weapon all week. He seemed to be able to pull out a big service winner at will, particularly in the pressure moments. While he served at just 50 percent in the final, he only lost two points behind his first serve (33 of 35) and was winning over 60 percent of the points behind his second serve. Federer didn't see a single break point all match. In fact, of his five opponents this week only Murray was able to break Tsonga's serve. Here are more numbers behind how much better Tsonga served this week than he has all season:

The combination of pure power -- he was hitting 140 on the speed gun -- and precision, especially under pressure, loosened up his return game and let him grip and rip. He finished the final with 28 winners to 18 unforced errors compared to Federer's 26 winners and 37 unforced errors.

Federer's final woes continue: Federer has now made seven finals this season, a huge improvement on the three he made last year, but he's won just two in Dubai and Halle. The loss to Tsonga isn't as surprising as his loss to Lleyton Hewitt in Brisbane to start the year or blowing a lead against Stan Wawrinka in the Monte Carlo final. Some of Tsonga's most memorable wins in his career have been over Federer, including a comeback from two-sets to love down at Wimbledon in 2011 and the French Open quarterfinals last year. 

But Federer's in-match wobbles continue and instead of trying to understand the reasons behind them -- nerves, age, the fact that he is, in fact, human and not peRFect -- the better course is just acceptance. In a winning position in Monte Carlo he let the lead slip away against Wawrinka. He gave up the only service break in the fifth set in the Wimbledon final against Djokovic. This week he blew six match points against Marin Cilic before finally closing it out in the third round. It never felt like he had the edge on Tsonga today but after fighting so hard to hold his serve and force the second set tiebreaker one bad miss spelled his doom. In the big picture this was still a confidence boosting week for Federer, who was into his third Masters final of the year, though he had to beat just one top ten player to do it. But he still hasn't won one since 2012 and this trend of putting himself in position to win and falling short is a concern. 

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