Two missed smashes, trouble with the wind, unforced errors and no aces. Nothing seemed to work for Roger Federer in his French Open quarterfinal loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The sixth-seeded French player beat the second-seeded Federer of Switzerland, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3, yesterday on the main Court Philippe Chatrier to reach his first semifinal at Roland Garros in Paris.
“This is obviously a crushing loss and I am disappointed about it,” Federer, the 2009 champion, told reporters. “He was in all areas better than me today. That’s why the result was pretty clean. No doubt about it. I was impressed by the way he played.”
The serve that had helped the 31-year-old Federer win a men’s record 17 major singles championships deserted him. He was broken six times, served three double faults and didn't produce a single ace. Federer made 34 errors, 12 more than Tsonga, and 25 winners, one less than the 28-year-old Frenchman -- who hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament.
“For me, it’s just maybe one of the best victories,” Tsonga said in a news conference. “Here at Roland Garros, in France, on a big court with a lot of people in the middle of the afternoon, and I just beat Roger Federer.”
Tsonga’s win guaranteed that, for the first time since Wimbledon in 2010, someone other than Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray will be in a major final. Tsonga plays David Ferrer of Spain in one semifinal, with the top-seeded Djokovic and Nadal playing quarterfinals today.
Tsonga also is the first Frenchman in the semifinals since Gael Monfils in 2008. Yannick Noah was the most recent Frenchman to win the title, 30 years ago.
In the remaining men’s quarterfinals, Djokovic of Serbia faces Tommy Haas of Germany and Nadal, the seven-time champion from Spain, plays Switzerland’s second-best player, Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded ninth. At 35, Haas is the tournament’s oldest male quarterfinalist since 1971.
Today’s quarterfinals among the women feature defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia against former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, seeded 18th, and third-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus playing 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia. Serena Williams and Sara Errani already have advanced to the semifinals.
The French sports newspaper l’Equipe put Federer and Tsonga on yesterday’s front page with the headline, ‘The Hour of Jo.’ It took Tsonga just 45 minutes longer to dismantle Federer’s game.
Federer was a point away from a 5-3 first-set lead before Tsonga came back to tie at 4-4 and then take the set when Federer shanked a forehand.
“Should have never gotten broken,” said Federer, who tried to unsettle the hard-hitting Tsonga in the first set with serve-and-volley tactics. “In hindsight, now that’s obviously a huge game for me.”
Tsonga took a 4-1 lead in the second set with help from two one-handed backhand passing shots. Tsonga, who normally strikes his backhand with two hands, took a two-set lead on a return error.
Federer handed Tsonga an opening-game break in the third set with a double fault. He broke back in the next game with a forehand return winner played at full stretch. Then, in a swirling wind, Federer missed two smashes, at 2-2 and at 3-2.
“I have played so good in the wind in the past that it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Federer. “Missing smashes goes hand in hand with missing so many other things. Sometimes you get the overhead and you get a bit anxious and things just don’t go your way. Sometimes you start missing that stuff as well.”
Tsonga broke again for 4-3, drilling a running backhand into Federer as the Swiss player stood at the net. Serving to stay in the tournament down 5-3, Federer rushed to the net only to miss a backhand volley and give Tsonga two match points. A smash that landed on the baseline saved the first, before Tsonga won on a backhand long.
Tsonga also beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2011, coming back from two sets down.
“Sports, it’s beautiful because you can always do something,” Tsonga said. “Even if you play the best player in the world or anybody, you have a chance. Because the guy in front of you has two legs, two arms, one head. That’s it.”
Tsonga will play Ferrer, the No. 4 seed, for a spot in the final. Ferrer advanced past another Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.
Earlier yesterday on Court Suzanne Lenglen, women’s top seed Williams managed to dig herself out of a hole against Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Williams trailed two games to love in the final set before winning the next four games.
“She never gives up,” Williams said about the 2009 champion, who broke her serve four times. “Like when I had my match point, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to just stay so focused because she probably plays this like it’s 15-all.’”
Williams will play last year’s runner-up, Errani, in the semifinals after the Italian beat fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Williams, who won her lone French Open title in 2002, has never lost to Errani in five previous matches.
“It will be big surprise if somebody can beat her here,” Kuznetsova said in a news conference.