Federer crushes Tsonga to reach final

Roger Federer sends out an ominous warning to Andy Murray as he rolls into the Australian Open final.

Having yesterday forced French opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to bid adieu to a potential place in Sunday's Australian Open final, Roger Federer displayed joie de vivre on the sidelines of Centre Court, joking, jesting and looking as comfortable off-court as he appeared on it. The Swiss maestro gave Tsonga a masterclass in aggressive tennis at Melbourne Park, taking just 88 minutes and using a full repertoire of strokes to conclusively crush the Frenchman 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to set-up a clash with Andy Murray in the final tomorrow. Federer has been ruthless this week as his relentless pursuit of an unprecedented 16th grand-slam title continues but, having dispatched a fatigued Tsonga with ease, he appeared stress free and good humoured off-court. Tsonga had never played in a five-set match until this week, where he was forced to go the distance by both Nicolas Almagro and Novak Djokovic, and the physical exertions appeared to have taken their toll by the time he faced the formidable Federer. When Federer, who has now reached an astonishing eight successive grand-slam finals, was asked to explain his fitness secrets, the 28-year-old mischievously answered: "Nothing. No secret. It's all talent. I don't work. I just sit on the couch. I really just take care of the kids. That's all." The No 1 seed did, however, praise his opponent, who for large parts of the match played perfectly good tennis, but was simply not in the same league as a Federer at his imperious best. As Tsonga failed to capitalise on the few half-chances he was afforded, his opponent served strongly, produced an array of unpredictable slices, lobs and one audacious backhand volley, all while hitting the lines with monotonous regularity. "I thought Tsonga did really well in those five set matches and I expected him to come out here and be really athletic the way we know him," he said. "Maybe he was mentally more fatigued than physically and that is unfortunate for him. "I'm very happy. It's always easier against top players if you can win the first set. You've always got to deal with how your opponent plays. Sometimes he plays like you want, sometimes not and you have to battle to get the break you need. It was the same last year with [Juan Martin] Del Potro [who Federer beat in straight sets in the 2009 quarter-finals]. It's nice going through like this, but I already know the next match won't be this way." Murray has been the in-form player the past fortnight, powering past Marin Cilic in his semi-final, despite dropping the first set. But with the 22-year-old feeling immense pressure to become the first Briton to win a grand slam since Fred Perry's Wimbledon victory in 1936, the Scotsman has a mammoth task ahead. And Fede-rer was not about to let him forget. "I know he'd like to win the first grand slam for British tennis in ... what is it? Like 150,000 years?" joked the Swiss, who has now reached the final of the Australian Open in five of the past seven years, winning it three times. "The poor guy has to go through those moments over and over again. He's done tremendously. We match up well and I'm looking forward to the final." Tsonga was understandably disappointed in defeat, but paid his respects to his opponent, who has lost just seven matches from 60 at Melbourne Park. "I was just a bit more tired after the first set," said Tsonga. "It was tough to play against him. He was really good, and that's it." gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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