Olympics: Tsonga wins record-breaker as stars race through
LONDON (AFP) - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the Olympics' longest ever three-set match against Milos Raonic on Tuesday - while Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray took much quicker routes into the third round.
French fifth seed Tsonga outlasted Canada's Raonic 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in a gruelling tie whose 66 games were the most ever seen in a three-set Olympic tennis match.
The 48-game final set was also the longest set in Olympic history, a record that takes into account all men's and women's matches in both singles and doubles.
The epic encounter overtook Canada's Carling Bassett-Seguso and Jill Hetherington's three-set doubles win over Mexico's Jill Hetherington and Mercedes Paz Gabriela Sabatini at Seoul 1988, which clocked in at 63 games.
In Olympic singles, only the five-set 76-game encounter between Gordon Lowe and Augustos Zerlendis in Antwerp in 1920 has featured more games. Time records are not available for all Olympic matches.
"It's good because this is the only way to write my name in history for the moment. With Rafa (Nadal), Roger (Federer) and Novak (Djokovic), even Andy (Murray), it's tough to go through big tournaments," Tsonga said.
"It's something special because I dreamed about Olympics when I was kid.
And now it came true. It's maybe better than in my dream. I'm really happy. I hope I will have some more (history)." While Tsonga was on court for three hours and 56 minutes, world number two Djokovic did not hang around as he crushed three-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick 6-2, 6-1.
On the evidence of this brutal demolition in 54 minutes under the Centre Court roof, the 25-year-old, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Games in Beijing, is approaching peak form again after the disappointment of losing to Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Next up for Djokovic is a last-16 clash with Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who rolled back the years with a surprise 6-4, 7-5 win over Croatian 13th seed Marin Cilic.
"It would mean a lot to me," Djokovic said when asked where a gold medal would rank in his career.
"It would be probably right up there with all the grand slams that I won because I'm playing here for my country. That's something that we as tennis players don't get to experience too much."
British hope Murray had set the pace earlier on Centre Court when the world number four defeated Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-4 in just over an hour.
The 25-year-old, who hit 26 winners to Nieminen's six, will face Cyprus's Marcos Baghdatis in the last 16 in a rematch of this year's late-night Wimbledon third round clash.
"It was good. I played well at the start of the match," Murray said.
"I think he was a bit nervous at the start. He played a bad first game and I played some good tennis."
Also advancing to the last 16 in the men's singles were Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer, who beat Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-2, and Japan's Kei Nishikori, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner over Russia's Nikolay Davydenko.
In the women's singles second round, Maria Sharapova set up a revenge mission against Sabine Lisicki as the Russian world number three beat Britain's Laura Robson 7-6 (7/5) 6-3.
Sharapova lost her world number one ranking after losing to Lisicki in the Wimbledon fourth round earlier this month, but the French Open champion will have a chance to make amends by knocking out the German when they clash in the last 16.
"She's an extremely difficult opponent, I lost to her just a few weeks ago here at Wimbledon and she played at a really high level," Sharapova said.
"I hope I'll change a few things around in order to change the result." Also moving into the last 16 was world number one Victoria Azarenka, who thrashed Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 6-2.