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Djokovic saves four match points in win over Tsonga

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The Sports Network
6/5/2012 4:02:58 PM
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Paris, France (Sports Network) - Novak Djokovic saved four match points before outlasting Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets, while Roger Federer came from two-sets-to-love down to beat Juan Martin del Potro in Tuesday's dramatic quarterfinal action at the French Open. Djokovic and Federer will square off in a blockbuster semifinal showdown on Friday.

The world No. 1 Djokovic overcame the fifth-seeded Tsonga in 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 fashion on Court Chatrier to reach his fourth career French Open semi, while the third-seeded former world No. 1 Federer outlasted the ninth-seeded del Potro 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 on Court Lenglen to reach his seventh French semifinal.

Djokovic is trying to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles. Aussie legend Rod Laver was the last man to turn the trick when he captured all four majors in one year back in 1969.

The formidable Djokovic rolled all over Tsonga in the opening set on Day 10 before the Frenchman fought back to win the next two tight sets. A cross-court forehand winner by Tsonga sealed a top-shelf rally to close out the third set, which gave the crowd favorite a stunning two-sets-to-one lead.

But the five-time major champion Djokovic showed why he's the best player in the world right now over the next two sets.

The super Serb saved all four match points, while serving, in an electric fourth set.

The reigning Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion saved the first match point while trailing 4-5, 15-40 with a forehand winner, and saved the second match point with another forehand winner to get the 10th game of the stanza to deuce en route to a hold, which made it 5-all.

The Serb saved a third match point while trailing 5-6, 30-40 when Tsonga netted a weak forehand, and Djokovic staved off match point number four with a big overhead smash winner. He held his serve on the next point to force a fourth-set tiebreak.

In the tiebreak, Djokovic blew a pair of set points as Tsonga pulled even at 6-6, but the Serb made good on a third when the Frenchman found the net with an errant groundstroke.

A gallant Tsonga, however, was then no match for Djokovic in the fifth set, where the Serbian slugger converted on his first match point of the night, amid some drizzle, with an easy backhand winner after 4 hours, 9 minutes of compelling tennis.

Djokovic recorded six breaks, compared to four for Tsonga, who piled up 27 more unforced errors (61-34) than his brilliant Serbian counterpart.

"It was incredible from the start," Djokovic said. "I played really well for a set and a break up. The crowd supported Jo. He started playing really well. It was really difficult to stay focused but I was believing maybe I could have my chances. He was playing really aggressive. If he would have won today, he would have been a well-deserved winner."

The Belgrade native Djokovic is now 6-5 lifetime against Tsonga, including a victory in the 2008 Aussie Open final. The Serb also beat the Frenchman in a quarterfinal in Rome last month.

Djokovic is now riding a torrid 26-match Grand Slam winning streak.

Meanwhile, Federer appeared to be in a whole lot of trouble on Day 10 after dropping the first two sets against the former U.S. Open champion del Potro, but the Argentine saw his game take a turn for the worse after winning a second-set tiebreak.

Del Potro, who received some treatment for what appeared to be a left knee problem, was simply no match for Federer over the last three sets, as the Swiss great won 18-of-23 games to complete the comeback. Del Potro played with a heavily-taped knee on Tuesday.

Federer overcame a two-sets-to-love deficit for the seventh time in his amazing career.

The 30-year-old Federer prevailed in 3 hours, 24 minutes by striking 26 more winners (59-33) and tallying twice as many service breaks (8-4) as del Potro.

Federer is now 12-2 lifetime against "Delpo," including wins in their last six encounters. The Swiss veteran is 5-0 versus the towering Argentine this year, including victories in the Aussie Open quarters and a final in Rotterdam.

The Basel native Federer came from two-sets-to-one down to beat del Potro in a French Open semifinal back in 2009, the same year the Argentine beat the Swiss in the U.S. Open final, which del Potro trailed two-sets-to-one before mounting a comeback of his own in Flushing.

The sublime Federer will now appear in his 29th semifinal in his last 32 Grand Slam events. The 16-time major champ captured his lone French Open title in 2009 to complete a career Grand Slam and has been a four-time Roland Garros runner-up to Rafael Nadal, including last year in Paris.

Federer hasn't captured a major title since the 2010 Aussie Open.

The 25-year-old Djokovic and Federer will meet for a 26th time, with the Swiss leading their all-time series, 14-11. The Serb beat Federer in a semifinal in Rome last month, but the Swiss legend topped Djokovic in four sets in the French semis a year ago, which prevented the Serb from reaching his first-ever final at Roland Garros and stopped a 45-match overall winning streak by Djokovic.

"The good thing is that we both have two days off now to rest," Djokovic said. "And I hope to have another great match like we did in 2011. It's always a big challenge to play Roger. He's a fantastic player, a big champion."

The quarterfinals are scheduled to wrap up here on Wednesday when a second- seeded Nadal meets 12th seed and fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and fourth seed Andy Murray of Great Britain takes on sixth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer. Nadal, Ferrer and Almagro each have yet to lose a set at this 2012 French fortnight.

The 10-time Grand Slam champion Nadal is a six-time French Open titlist, including wins in the previous two installments of the world's lone clay-court major.

The 2012 French Open champ will collect $1.5 million.

Novak Djokovic (Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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