x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

French Open: Local favourite Tsonga rocks Federer in straight sets to make semis

Serena Williams rallies to down Svetlana Kuznetsova while Sara Errani has it easy past Agnieszka Radwanska in the women's quarter-finals.

USA's Serena Williams returns to Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in Paris. Patrick Kovarik / AFP
USA's Serena Williams returns to Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in Paris. Patrick Kovarik / AFP

By Roger Federer's standards, defeat came early in the French Open. And it came quickly.

The 17-time grand slam champion lost yesterday in the quarter-finals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Federer was eliminated before the semi-finals for the second time in his past three Grand Slam tournaments, but only the seventh time in the past decade at a major event. Tsonga was responsible for two of the losses – he also beat Federer in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2011.

Serena Williams narrowly avoided Federer’s fate. She came from behind in the third set and advanced to the French semi-finals for the first time since 2003, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday.

Williams had been beaten the last four times she has reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals, most recently in 2010.

The 15-time major champion, who is ranked No 1, won her only French title in 2002. Tsonga earned his first berth in the Roland Garros semi-finals and is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the tournament since Yannick Noah in 1983. He is the first Frenchman to reach the semi-finals since Gael Monfils in 2008.

“I can’t have better a dream,” Tsonga told the crowd at centre court. “So far, I play very well. I played against a champion today, a guy who has won everything. Today it’s my turn.”

On Friday he will play fourth-seeded David Ferrer, who beat fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

Tsonga was runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Australian Open, his best grand slam result. Ranked No 8, he dominated Federer with his blend of power and athleticism.

Federer took a 4-2 lead, but played like a mere mortal after that. He blew three overheads, missed several easy volleys, hit no aces, dropped serve six times and took a shot to the body on the point that put Tsonga ahead to stay in the final set.

Facing a break point, Federer sliced a drop shot, and Tsonga raced forward to scoop it up. He whacked a backhand that clipped the net cord and then drilled Federer under his right arm.

That made it 4-3, and Tsonga quickly won the final two games. When he closed out the victory, Federer greeted him with a gracious smile and two congratulatory pats on the stomach.

A jubilant Tsonga then went spinning across the court, waving his arms as the partisan, Parisian crowd roared. Federer, long a fan favourite in Paris, also earned a lusty cheer as he headed to the exit.

“I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played,” Federer said. “He was in all areas better than me today. That’s why the result was pretty clean.”

The last time Federer lost to a player ranked so low in a major tournament was at Wimbledon two years ago, when the 19th-ranked Tsonga overcame a two-set deficit to beat him.

The French Open has been the most difficult major event for Federer. He won his lone Roland Garros title in 2009 to complete a career grand slam and tie Pete Sampras’s record of 14 major titles.

Now 31, he has yet to win a tournament in 2013, his longest drought to start a year since 2000.

In the women’s semi-final, Williams’s opponent will be 2012 French runner-up Sara Errani, who advanced by beating No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6.

Errani showed her run last year was no fluke as she rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the second. The Italian did not falter in the tie-breaker, converting her second match point when Radwanska hit a backhand wide.

Radwanska was the first Polish woman to reach the quarter--finals  here in the open era.

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