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Tsonga Stuns Federer To Keep French Dream Alive

Paris, France

Tsonga© AFP/Getty ImagesKeeping the dream alive... Jo-Wilfried Tsona.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one step closer to fulfilling French hopes at Roland Garros after stunning 2009 champion Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 51 minutes on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals in Paris for the first time. 

"For me, it's maybe one of my best victories," said Tsonga. "[But] the tournament is not finished, and I hope I will have some more. Sport is beautiful because you can always do something. Even if you play the best player in the world, you have a chance. Because the guy in front of you only has two legs, two arms, one head."

Sixth seed Tsonga is the lone French prospect remaining at Roland Garros. He is bidding to become the first male champion at the Paris Grand Slam since Yannick Noah in 1983. This time last year, he suffered one of the toughest defeats of his career as he squandered four match points in a five-set quarter-final loss to Novak Djokovic.

Tsonga is the first Frenchman to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals since Gael Monfils in 2008 and he has done so without the loss of a set. He is bidding to reach his second Grand Slam final, having finished runner-up at the 2008 Australian Open (l. to Djokovic). 

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He will face fourth seed David Ferrer, who impressed in a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 dismissal of fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Tsonga and Ferrer have met three times, with the Spaniard leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1, including victory at their only clay-court contest three years ago at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

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"Everybody's been expecting a lot from me since the beginning of this tournament," said Tsonga. "Not only this tournament, but every day. So I'm used to it. Now what is important, is to stay focused, to think about my next match. Because it will be extremely tough against a player who didn't lose a single set and won with a very striking score in the quarter-finals. 

"I feel I'm able to beat [Ferrer] because I believe I have the weapons for that. I have more endurance now. I'm more consistent. I hit harder than he does, and normally I serve a lot better than him."

The 28-year-old Tsonga recorded just his fourth win in 13 meetings with Federer, his first since 2011, when he recorded back-to-back victories over the Swiss in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, from a two-set deficit, and the Rogers Cup round of 16 in Montreal. 

"I thought he played great today," said Federer. "He was, in all areas, better than me today. That's why the result was pretty clean. I was impressed by the way he played today. I think I struggled a little bit everywhere. To be honest, personally, I'm pretty sad about the match and the way I played."

Tsonga trailed by an early break at 2-3, but Federer’s form was inconsistent. Hampered by untimely unforced errors, particularly on the forehand side, the Swiss surrendered a 40/15 advantage in the eighth game and Tsonga took full advantage, playing with greater confidence from the baseline to level at 4-4. With the Philippe Chatrier crowd cheering him on, Tsonga created a 40/0 lead on Federer’s serve in the 12th game. The Swiss fought back to level at deuce, but gave Tsonga a fourth opportunity, which he took as Federer framed a mid-rally forehand into the stands.

FedererTsonga did not take his foot off the gas. Looking to reach his first major semi-final since 2012 Wimbledon (l. to Murray), he broke Federer to love for a 2-0 lead in the second set as the Swiss sprayed a backhand wide. Federer avoided going down a double break in the sixth game, but was powerless as Tsonga served out the second set in 35 minutes with an unreturned serve.

Federer double faulted to lose his first game of the third set, but immediately got back on level terms with a crunching forehand return winner. Tsonga kept the pressure on, though, not blinking in the enormity of the situation. He opened up a 40/15 lead on Federer’s serve at 3-3 and broke through as he drilled a ball at the net-stranded Federer. He earned two match points in the ninth game and converted his second as Federer hit long. 

The 31-year-old Federer was looking to reach his 34th Grand Slam semi-final. The 17-time major champion completed the career Grand Slam when he lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2009 with victory over Robin Soderling.

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