Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has added fuel to the fire before his match against Andy Murray in the fourth round of the US Open on Monday, by saying that his opponent is not the player he was.
The Frenchman defeated the Briton in the quarter-finals of the Toronto Masters in August, and the two players are scheduled to meet again in the third match of the day on Arthur Ashe Stadium later today.
While Murray has won two Grand Slams, he is yet to reach the final of an ATP tournament since winning Wimbledon in 2013, and he has not beaten a player ranked inside the top 10 in 2014.
Tsonga, who lost his last match against Murray in a Grand Slam in a four set semi-final at Wimbledon in 2012, feels that other players are less fearful about playing the world number nine than they were previously.
The ninth seed also attacked his opponent’s loss of consistency when it comes to serving, citing his fitness troubles as a potential reason for this.
He said: "The locker room is maybe a bit less afraid of Andy because he's losing a few more matches than in the past.
“But I don't know any player who once on court is going to be super confident against Andy.
"He's different than in the past maybe because I feel he's not serving as strong as he used to, nor maybe hitting as strong as he used to.
"And during matches he's showing more when he seems in pain with his back or hip region, I'm not sure. You can see it on some moves, too."
There is no history of bad blood between the two, but Tsonga’s comments will have added spice to what was already a mouth-watering match-up.
Murray has not showed his best form at the tournament in New York so far, but he has raised his performance levels when it has mattered most in wins over Robin Haase, Matthias Bachinger and Andrey Kuznetsov.
Performances so far
While Murray dropped two sets on his way to the second week, with one being brought about by cramp against Hasse, where it looked as though it could cost him the match after being two sets up, Tsonga has lost one in the first round against Juan Monaco.
The match will be the biggest test for both in the tournament so far, and history favours Murray, as he has won nine of the 11 matches he has played against the 29-year-old, including eight consecutive wins after losing to Tsonga in the first round of the Australian Open in 2008, where Tsonga went on to reach his only Grand Slam final.
But there is now little to choose between the two players, as they are separated by just one position in the ATP world rankings, and even though Tsonga has won a title in Toronto this year, he has been knocked out in the fourth round of all three Grand Slams.
The winner of the last 16 contest will face the winner of the fourth round match between top seed Novak Djokovic and 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.
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