TORONTO – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France defeated Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday afternoon to advance to the Rogers Cup men’s singles final.
Tsonga, the No. 13 seed, will play second-seeded Roger Federer in Sunday’s final at Rexall Centre. The Swiss star advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Feliciano Lopez of Spain in the evening semifinal.
Dimitrov, the seventh seed at the Masters 1000 Series tournament, fell to 0-4 in head-to-head matchups against the Frenchman while Lopez fell to 0-11 lifetime against Federer.
It was Tsonga’s third straight win over a higher-seeded opponent. He dumped top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the third round and defeated No. 8 Andy Murray of Britain in the quarter-finals.
“This week I’m more consistent and it’s good because it (helped) me beat three guys in the top 10,” Tsonga said. “I didn’t do that (for a) couple of years now and it gives me hope for the rest of the year.”
In the early semifinal, both players seemed content to hang near the baseline on a hot, sunny afternoon on the showcase stadium court.
Tsonga needed a few games to get his legs going but his powerful serve helped him stay on serve against the young Bulgarian. At 4-4 in the opener, Tsonga got lucky when his ball hit the net cord and trickled over the other side to go to deuce.
He picked up the lone break of the set by taking advantage of his raw power from the backcourt. Heavy topspin strokes forced Dimitrov from side to side and he came up short on two straight returns.
Tsonga, buoyed by the enthusiastic near-capacity crowd, skipped and pumped his fist when he sealed the last point. He fought off four break point opportunities in the next game to take the opening set.
“You have your chances,” Dimitrov said. “Today things were just not leaning on my side.”
Perhaps a little tired after his three-hour quarter-final a day earlier, Dimitrov appeared a tad sluggish early in the second set.
After splitting the first two games, he fell behind 0-30 and tried pushing forward but his volley found the net to set up a triple-break point. Tsonga showed him how it’s done with a chip-and-charge setup and firm volley winner.
Dimitrov seemed unsettled after that. He began flubbing second-serve returns and was unable to dictate the play.
Tsonga, meanwhile, showed off some of his other skills. Up 4-2 and looking for another break, he displayed his impressive range by chasing down balls on both sides of the court and fully stretching his six-foot-two frame.
When Dimitrov floated a soft return, Tsonga showed some deception by bringing his shoulder in to tease a straight return before extending the arm and going cross-court to leave his opponent befuddled.
Dimitrov hung in for the hold but Tsonga followed by serving out at love for a 5-3 lead. He converted his second match point when Dimitrov’s lob bounced just long.
“He came up with the goods today when he needed to and basically that was it,” Dimitrov said. “And I didn’t think I played good tennis.”
Tsonga extended his arms in the air after the victory and later shadow-boxed on the court for a few seconds in celebration.
In the late match, Federer was in control from the start on a clear, comfortable evening. He took the opening game at love and dropped only five points on his serve in the first set.
Lopez turned in a game effort against the two-time Rogers Cup champ but couldn’t match Federer’s consistency. The Swiss star was his usual smooth self and never appeared threatened.
Sunday’s match will be Tsonga’s second final appearance of the season. He lost to Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in Marseille last February.
Federer will be appearing in his seventh final this year. He has a 2-4 record with victories coming at Dubai and Halle.
Tsonga has won 10 career titles and will be looking for his first Rogers Cup crown. He has a 4-11 career record against Federer, his preferred choice as an opponent.
“When you play against Roger, it’s always special,” Tsonga said. “First, because you play in a big area, in a big stadium anyway. And every time the crowd is for him, so it’s quite a good sensation.
“It’s quite a good feeling when you win against 10,000 people,” he added with a smile.
It will be Tsonga’s first appearance in a Masters 1000 final since he lost to Federer three years ago at the BNP Paribas Masters. His only Masters 1000 title came in Paris back in 2008.
Federer, meanwhile, has won 79 career titles and is a 17-time Grand Slam champion.
In men’s doubles semifinal play, third-seeded Daniel Nestor of Toronto and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (8) decision to No. 2 Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
Earlier, the fourth-seeded duo of Brazil’s Marcelo Melo and Croatia’s Ivan Dodig defeated Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-2.
© The Canadian Press, 2014