TORONTO (Reuters) - Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued to travel the upset route into the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup, taking out twice former champion Andy Murray 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-4 on Friday, after the eighth seed squandered a 3-0 lead in the final set.
A confident Tsonga heads into Saturday, where he will face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, having already taken out the two men, - world number one Novak Djokovic and Murray - who between them had won five of the last seven Canadian hard court titles.
After ending an 11-match losing run against Djokovic in the third round, Tsonga brought another barren stretch to an end against Murray.
The Scotsman had dominated their head-to-head encounters, winning nine of 10 contests, the Frenchman’s only victory coming in 2008 at the Australian Open.
“It’s going better-and-better every day,” said Tsonga. “These last couple of months I practiced a lot because I didn’t win many matches and I also made the choice to practice than play tournaments because I was not really ready after the knee problem I had last year.
“Now I feel like I’m ready to play. I’m sure I’m playing better than before.”
Tsonga has found success over the years on the Canadian hard courts, reaching the semi-finals in three of his four visits and with a win over Dimitrov will advance to his third ATP Masters final.
One of the rising stars on the ATP Tour, Dimitrov needed to dig deep to avoid having his name added to the upset list, the seventh seed battling back to beat South African Kevin Anderson 5-7 7-5 7-6 (6).
Murray, who advanced to the quarter-finals when Frenchman Richard Gasquet withdrew ahead of their third round clash with an abdominal strain, was playing in just his second match since Wimbledon.
With new coach Amelie Mauresmo looking on intently from the stands, Murray got off to a strong start, losing the first set in a tie-break before taking an equally tight second when he broke the Frenchman to clinch the set.
Murray carried the building momentum into the third racing to a 3-0 lead before Tsonga regained control, storming through the next five games and breaking the Scotsman twice.
“I’d probably have to watch the points back but I know the game I got broken back I played a very bad game,” said Murray when asked to explain his third set collapse. “The beginning of the match he served extremely well. He served a lot of aces.
“I had to play around my return position quite a lot and I started to get into more service games the second and third set but I thought it was a high level match, with a few games by both of us in the second and third sets that were a bit scrappy.
“But apart from those games I thought the level was very good.”
Anderson also fell victim to a third set meltdown.
Leading 5-4 in the third serving for the match the South African wasted two match points allowing Dimitrov to force the set to a tie-break which he clinched when Anderson double-faulted.
“It was pretty tough, I mean, still probably processing it all but probably as disappointing and frustrating as a match can possibly get,” said Anderson. “I worked really hard and obviously you never want to lose a match after having a couple of match points.
“Just probably one of the tougher losses on my serve in my career so far.”
Editing by Gene Cherry