Djokovic cruises past Tsonga at BNP
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic advanced to the BNP Paribas Open semifinals on Friday with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 54 minutes.
Juan Martin del Potro had to go the distance to upset No. 3 seed Andy Murray 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1 for the first time in five tries on hard courts in the other men’s quarterfinal.
Del Potro will play Djokovic in Saturday’s semifinals. The Argentine has lost to Djokovic eight times in 10 meetings.
No. 8-seeded Caroline Wozniacki outlasted fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a 2 1/2-hour semifinal that included 14 service breaks, seven of them in the final set.
Wozniacki, the 2011 Indian Wells champion, will play Maria Sharapova, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 13 Maria Kirilenko, in Sunday’s final.
Sharapova (27) and Wozniacki (20) are third and fourth among active players for most titles won, trailing only Serena (47) and Venus Williams (44).
Djokovic extended his winning streak to 22 matches dating to Oct. 31, when he last lost to American Sam Querrey in Paris. The Serb has a 17-0 record this year and captured the Australian Open.
”When it was important, I didn’t allow him to come back to the match. I didn’t allow him to have an opportunity to believe that he can maybe have a break back and get back into the match,” Djokovic said about Tsonga.
”That was very important for me to stay mentally committed throughout the whole match.”
Djokovic broke the Frenchman four times and served out the match with his fourth 40-love game in the second set.
”Jo didn’t play his best,” Djokovic said. ”He made a lot of unforced errors and his serve wasn’t going well so it made my life easier on the court.”
Tsonga fell to 0-11 against Top-5 opponents since beating then-No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal in November 2011.
”I did a lot of mistakes, was tough for me to keep the ball in the court,” Tsonga said. ”It was a day for me without sensation. Everything I tried to do, I missed it.”
Against Del Potro, Murray double-faulted for the eighth time to end the 2 1/2-hour match, missing with his second serve down the middle to get broken for the third time in the set and fifth time in the match.
The Scot was playing his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final to Djokovic in late January.
”It was a tough match,” he said. ”It’s very warm conditions the first set or two, and sometimes on the serve if your legs are just a little bit tired you can miss serves. Just timing might go a little bit off and you’re not quite getting up to them. That’s maybe what happened.”
Del Potro hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament until he lost the tiebreaker 7-5 on an errant forehand. He’s reached at least the quarterfinals in four of five events this year.
”He played like someone that’s won a lot of matches recently,” Murray said. ”Especially in the second and third set when the important moments came, he played well.”
Del Potro considers his wrist nearly 100 percent recovered from the 2010 injury that knocked him off the tour after he won the 2009 U.S. Open.
”I played my best match of the tournament. I was positive all the time, even when I lost the first set, tough first set,” he said. ”I’m hitting all the time hard the ball with my forehands, and I play a few slices, as well, and drop shots.”
In the first women’s semifinal, Wozniacki and Kerber resembled junior players at times as they exchanged countless moonballs. Kerber pulled a moonball wide to set up match point and then netted a forehand to end it, ending her three-match winning streak against Wozniacki.
”I missed a lot of these balls, and, yeah, maybe next time it will be better,” Kerber said.
Wozniacki led 4-1 before her German opponent won four of the next five games to tie the third set at 5-all. Wozniacki held at love and Kerber won just one point on her serve in the final game.
”I feel like I have been running and grinding and playing really well this week. I have reached a lot of balls and felt comfortable,” the Danish former world No. 1 said.
”I really enjoy going to the net. I missed a few volleys today, but it’s definitely something I have been working on and something I feel more and more comfortable with.”
Sharapova earned the only two service breaks of the second set, winning the match with a forehand down the line.
”I made the first set more difficult than I had to,” she said. ”I stepped it up in the second set.”
The 2006 Indian Wells champion hasn’t lost a set in five matches so far. By reaching the final, she will move from No. 3 in the world to No. 2, overtaking Victoria Azarenka when the WTA Tour rankings come out Monday.
”It’s nice,” she said. ”Better than No. 3, right?”
Kirilenko is projected to rise to No. 13 — one spot from her career high of 12th — after losing the biggest semifinal of her career.