Commentary

Redemption and dominance

Updated: July 31, 2012, 6:10 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

[+] EnlargeTsonga
Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty ImagesJo-Wilfried Tsonga won the longest set in Olympic history.

When the draw for the Olympics was made, two potential second-round matches in the men's bottom half stood out: Novak Djokovic versus Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga versus Milos Raonic.

Those matches materialized on Tuesday, when the rain returned at Wimbledon.

And while Tsonga beat Raonic 25-23 in the third set, Djokovic simply outclassed Roddick.

Tsonga's historic win against Raonic probably wasn't the most important victory of his career. After all, he has won a Grand Slam semifinal and several Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Most, if not all, players on the tour will tell you they'd take winning a major over Olympic gold.

Nor did Tsonga claim a medal of any color in disposing of Raonic 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in the second round in a match typically interrupted by rain in England.

And helped by the best-of-three format, at around four hours, it was nowhere close to the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut epic at Wimbledon that went more than 11 hours two years ago.

However, at the venue where Tsonga suffered major disappointment weeks ago -- falling to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinals -- he was this time euphoric. Yes, a Frenchman prevailed in a marathon duel against a towering, huge serving North American, and Tsonga won the longest final set in Olympic history.

Tsonga's pedigree is well-known.

When he's on his game, as he's shown, he can beat anyone on tour, including the "fab four" of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

When Tsonga took a 3-0 lead in the first set, there was no indication of what was to come. A lone break also separated the players in the second set.

But it soon became apparent that the players would be on court for a while in the third when they returned from a lengthy delay.

Tsonga, too, possesses a serve that's difficult to break down.

With Tsonga's shot-making, the match, in terms of quality, was better than Isner-Mahut, although if Raonic doesn't start to break his opponents with more regularity, it's a worrying sign. As Isner and Ivo Karlovic know, possessing a lethal serve doesn't guarantee success at the big events. Raonic hasn't yet been able to manufacture a breakthrough win against the true elite player.

Is it still only a matter of time?

The first set was a potential turning point. Trying to get back on serve, Raonic made a particularly bad error on break point. Had he leveled, he might have won the encounter in straight sets.

The narrow margin of the Canadian's defeat resembled a loss to Federer at the Madrid Masters during the clay-court swing. Just as it was back then, Raonic won more points overall.

Federer and Tsonga won the more important points.

Raonic did, though, prove his mettle by slamming an ace to save a match point at 15-16, then powering a serve into the body to save another match point at 20-21. In the latter game, Tsonga gifted Raonic two points by erring on a pair of backhands.

At 23-24, it appeared a little less sting was on the Raonic serve, and Tsonga pounced -- finally. On the last point, he hit a wonderful defensive lob and recovered from a slip to put away a volley and seal the win.

A smile came from Tsonga, and Raonic, ever the sportsman, followed suit. (Should he have been more annoyed?) The Olympics had their first -- extended -- blockbuster.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's action on Centre Court:

Much better from Novak

[+] EnlargeNovak Djokovic
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsNovak Djokovic was unstoppable on Tuesday against Andy Roddick.

There was a temporary malfunction on the International Tennis Federation's "live scores" application: After one game between Djokovic and Roddick, Djokovic was listed as having six aces.

They were actually on to something.

Two days after he toiled against clay-court specialist Fabio Fognini, Djokovic's serve -- and return -- sizzled in a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Roddick in 54 minutes. The demolition job, for Roddick fans -- or even neutrals -- had to have been painful to watch.

Djokovic hit 14 aces and spread them out, collecting at least one in all but one of his service games. Wasn't it not too long ago that Djokovic's serve was a liability and prompted the introduction of Todd Martin?

Roddick, whose serve traditionally has had a heftier reputation, managed five aces.

That's where Djokovic's return game comes in.

Discussing his return and comparing it to Andre Agassi's, multiple Wimbledon semifinalist Tim Henman, in commentary for the BBC, said it was easier to ace the International Hall of Famer.

Shortly after, he had proof as Djokovic blew the match open. With Roddick facing a break point at 2-3, Roddick got what he wanted: a heavy first serve out wide.

Not many would have gotten a racket to it, but Djokovic did, and the ball floated in the air for a few seconds before landing near the baseline. He eventually won the point to break, and break Roddick's resistance.

The encounter realistically over, Djokovic unleashed two venomous returns -- one looking a lot like "The Shot" against Roger Federer at the U.S. Open last year -- to leave Roddick shaking his head. His overall tally was 34 winners and six unforced errors.

Yes, another player to produce great numbers against Roddick, which says as much about the American's style as Djokovic's display. Off the ground, a passive Roddick doesn't have the ability to blast through Djokovic and alter his rhythm.

Stiffer tests will come for Djokovic.

A bigger win for Venus

The opponent was, on paper, easier than in the first round, but Venus Williams' 6-1, 6-3 win against Aleksandra Wozniak was more encouraging.

Williams' ability to compete on any given day is a question mark given that she suffers from Sjogren's syndrome, but her second dominant performance in a row means, hopefully, her body won't be a factor this week.

Just as she did against Sara Errani, Williams struck 32 winners against Wozniak, and she made two fewer unforced errors, 14. Only once in 16 tries did Williams lose a point at the net.

Based on the outing, BBC commentator Sam Smith was right to proclaim, "Venus Williams, back to her best," when the match on Centre Court ended in 63 minutes.

Errani, the diminutive Italian, and Wozniak, the tall Canadian, possess similar counterpunching games. In the third round, Williams lands a more dangerous foe, seventh seed and a semifinalist at this year's Wimbledon Angelique Kerber.

A Murray snooze fest

Where was, as Virginia Wade put it, the "drama queen"?

The former Wimbledon champion famously criticized Murray, her fellow Brit, for his antics when he played Jarkko Nieminen at the French Open.

You might recall that Murray, at one stage early in the match, could barely serve because of a back injury. He lost the first set but recovered to win in four as Nieminen crumbled.

A little drama would have been welcomed Tuesday when the pair tangled again. With Murray fit, the outcome was never in doubt, so it was no surprise that a fan watching on Centre Court even took a nap.

Murray cruised 6-2, 6-4, not broken for the second straight match. The Scot committed 20 unforced errors, which would normally be a concern, but it wasn't here. He lost concentration in patches and began attempting low-percentage shots -- because it was going too easy for him.

The third round brings more of a threat in Marcos Baghdatis. If it's anything like their match at Wimbledon this year, we're in for a treat.

Another British player, Laura Robson, put up a fight against Maria Sharapova, ultimately beaten in straight sets.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.