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Tsonga stuns Federer to advance to French Open semi-final, Ferrer awaits

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With players like Tommy Haas and Tommy Robredo amongst others playing marathon 5 setters to progress deep into the men’s draw at this year’s French Open, the story at the 2013 Roland Garros has been about the’ 30+ generation’ and the grueling nature of the Parisian red clay.

Three out of four players in today’s quarterfinal were into their fourth decade and it looked like tennis fans were in for another engaging and long lasting day of tennis.

However, that was not the case as both 4th seed David Ferrer and 6th seed and last remaining Frenchman in the men’s draw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came through in straight sets to move into the last 4. Ferrer defeated Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 while Tsonga joined him a little later talking out the 2nd seed, Roger Federer, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

The Ferrer-Robredo match was a little unpredictable. It was difficult to guess whether the 32nd seed still had it him to go the distance. The marquee match was the Tsonga-Federer quarterfinal where you had two players with similarly aggressive styles of play who had already played some classic matches at the 2011 Wimbledon and the 2013 Australian Open.

The Federer Express rolled quite smoothly in the early part of the opening set. His forehand was working like a well oiled machine and he was working the Frenchman to both sides of the court to win points. As a result, he got an early break en route to a 4-2 lead. Leading 40-15 on his serve in the 8th game, the 2nd seed looked comfortably in position for a one set to love lead but that’s when his shots began to fail him. Four unforced errors later the momentum had shifted and Tsonga was back in the set and the match at 4-4.

The duo continued the fight to 5-5 at which point the 6th seed held comfortably to 15 forcing the Maestro to serve to stay in the set. A couple of strong backhands from Tsonga and unforced errors from the Swiss’ racquet soon followed, allowing the Frenchman, who had never progressed to semi-finals in Paris, to get three points at 40-0 to take the opening set. The champion played his best tennis in quite a while under pressure and forced the game to deuce. Maybe the fight back had taken something out of him or made him relaxed but two errors later, the Tsonga was being cheered by the crowd as he walked to the changeover after taking the first set 7-5.

The world no.6 extended his streak to 5 games to get a 3-0 lead in set no.2 before Federer finally held serve. That did nothing to deter the 27 year old as he continued on his path overpowering the Swiss Maestro with his backhand, often considered his weak point, to eventually serve out the set 6-3 to get a stranglehold on the match with a 2 sets to love lead.

The 2009 champion’s woes continued into the third set and he was unable to find his rhythm as he continued to shank shots on his forehand. Tsonga got an early break but Federer was able to break back. The match stayed on serve to 3-3 but the 6th seed’s power hitting did not allow the 17 time Grand Slam champion any leeway into the match and the pressure was just too much for the 2nd seed as he was broken two times in quick succession to give the set and the match to Tsonga after a tame one hour and fifty one minutes.

This makes the charismatic Frenchman the first local player to move into the last 4 in Paris since Gael Monfils in 2008. Also, he joins Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as one of the few active players to defeat Federer in straight sets in a Slam.

The 2nd seed just could not play his full game today. The great player, rather uncharacteristically, slam dunked easy overheads into the net.  He was unable to hit a single ace and to make matters worse hit three double faults at crucial stages of the match to give Tsonga the advantage,

The two were more or less matched in winners with the Frenchman hitting 26 to Federer’s 25 but the Swiss made 34 unforced errors to Tsonga’s 22 . Apart from his improved backhand, Tsonga also served rather well and won 81 % of points on his first serve way above Federer’s 58 % to win his first match in straight sets against the 2012 Wimbledon champion.

The other quarterfinal was even shorter with 4th seed David Ferrer needing less than 90 minutes to put away his compatriot and world no 32 Tommy Robredo conceding only 4 games in the process.

It was a business like performance from Ferrer who broke his opponent’s serve 7 times and hit 26 winners for his 5th straight sets victory of the tournament.  Robredo never really had a look in on the match as Ferrer kept up his pressure throughout and only gave him the one break point opportunity which the 32nd seed failed to capitalise on.

In each of the first two  sets Ferrer got early breaks and rode the momentum into the third set where he raced to a 2-0 lead and with no fight back in response from Robredo continued to take the set 6-1 after only 22 minutes.

This sets up an intriguing lower half semi-final that sees David Ferrer take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for only the 4th time over their careers. Ferrer leads 2-1 with one of his victories coming in their only clay court meeting.

Both have a lot at stake. Tsonga is attempting to become the first man since Yannick Noah to win the French Open. On the other hand, the Spaniard has often been called the best player to never make a Slam final.

With so much riding on the shoulders of the two players, it is bound to be an exciting tennis match and if they both bring their ‘A’ games like they did today, we might have another classic match to add to the already growing list at the 2013 French  Open.