Djokovic, Federer survive epic battles
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer survived five-set struggles at the French Open yesterday to set up a mouth-watering semi-final where the Swiss legend will attempt to shatter the world number one’s Grand Slam dream.
Top seed Djokovic saved four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before pulling off a nail-biting 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 quarter-final win.
Third seed Federer reached a record-equalling 31st Grand Slam semi-final when he survived a brutal barrage from frail Argentine Juan Martin del Potro before prevailing 3-6, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
Djokovic’s win over Tsonga made it 26 straight match victories in Grand Slams, but seldom has he been run so ragged as he was at times by the powerful Frenchman, who had let slip four match points in the fourth set.
The defeat meant Tsonga’s dream of becoming the first Frenchman to win at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983 had been cruelly shattered.
“He was the better player for most of the match and I was fortunate to come back from four match points down. It was an incredible match,” said Djokovic.
Heartbroken Tsonga said: “I did what I said I would and gave everything. I came close and I would have loved to have won. It’s a shame because I was pretty close, but at the end I had no energy left.
“Now I will have to close this chapter.”
The key part of the tie was in the ninth game of the fourth set when Tsonga had two match points only for Djokovic to hold firm. Two games later two more match points escaped the Frenchman setting up a tie-break.
Djokovic trailed 2-4 in that, but with Tsonga looking increasingly tight, the top seed clawed his way back and forced a fifth set on his third set point.
The world number one seized the occasion to jump out into a 3-0 lead and he raced away to pull off a stunning victory.
Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam title winner and 2009 champion in Paris, came back from two sets to love down for the seventh time in his career and will take on Djokovic for the 26th time with a place in Sunday’s final at stake.
The result was cruel luck on the 1.98m Del Potro who had looked on course for a straight sets win after unleashing a brutal wave of power-hitting off both wings which left Federer floundering in the first two sets.
However, his hopes were finally sabotaged by a recurrence of the knee injury which has plagued him in Paris and which left him struggling to move by the end of Tuesday’s match.