Djokovic and Federer fight to secure Paris rematch
NOVAK Djokovic will play Roger Federer in a rematch of last year’s classic French Open semi-final after fighting back from the brink in remarkable fashion against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday evening.
The world No 1 could not have been closer to the exit door and the end of his chances of holding all four grand slam titles at the same time but again he showed incredible mental resilience to save four match points and triumph 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1.
Djokovic has made such recoveries his speciality, beating Federer from match points down at the US Open in 2010 and 2011 and coming through epic five-setters against Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open in January.
He said: “There is really not any rational explanation or a word that can describe what you’re supposed to do when you’re match points down or when you’re very close to losing the match. I guess it’s trying to be mentally tough and believing in your shots. I did have some matches similar to this one when I was match points down and managed to come back.”
After winning the first set easily, Djokovic let slip his advantage. Tsonga began to play brilliantly and he brought up two match points at 5-4 in the fourth set and two more at 6-5 but Djokovic never wavered.
The Frenchman only really had a chance on the final one, when he netted a forehand, and once he lost a close tie-break the match was only ever heading in one direction.
Tsonga was left with mixed feelings after coming so close to a famous victory in his first French Open quarter-final.
The 27-year-old said: “I’m not going to regret many things in that match. I gave everything I had. I fought as much as I could. Unfortunately at the end I had no energy left in my legs.”
The fifth seed sat with his head in his towel after the match before steeling himself for an on-court interview, and he added: “You get all kinds of feelings going through your mind.
“You want to break your racquet. You want to shout. You want to cry. You want to laugh and say, ‘oh, come on, that’s a joke. How could I lose this match?’ You want to wake up.”
On another day, Federer’s seventh career win from two sets to love down would have grabbed all the headlines as he defeated Juan Martin Del Potro 3-6, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
The 2009 champion began the match poorly and, although he improved in the second set and could have won it, Del Potro edged a high-class tie-break.
The Argentine has had heavy strapping on his left knee throughout the tournament and his movement gradually got worse as Federer raised his game.
An early break in the third set began the comeback, and the fourth was a breeze, but Federer still had to save break points in the opening game of the fifth before making the crucial breakthrough three games later.
It was another cool day in Paris and it rained lightly for much of the match, and Federer said: “I thought it was very good conditions for him. I knew it was going to be tough. I have still been struggling to find my rhythm.
“I did favour myself once the match got longer. I’m very happy with the way I fought”
Federer appeared to tell the crowd to shut up at one moment in the tie-break after some people shouted out during a point, and he added: “Obviously I was emotional.”
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