France has waited 30 years for a home-grown male champion at Roland Garros, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is within two victories of delivering the coup de grâce after crushing Roger Federer in the quarter-finals here last night. The joy around Philippe Chatrier Court at the 28-year-old Frenchman's 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 victory contrasted with the misery of Federer, who suffered the sort of defeat that is becoming all too familiar for him in the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
Thirty years after Yannick Noah became the last home player to win the French Open and 25 years after Henri Leconte was the last to finish runner-up, Tsonga has an outstanding opportunity at least to reach Sunday's final. His semi-final opponent on Friday will be David Ferrer, who beat Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. Ferrer has won two of his three meetings with Tsonga, while neither man has dropped a set in five matches here this year.
With Federer out and Andy Murray having failed to make the start line because of injury, Roland Garros 2013 will be the first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2010 which will feature at least one finalist from outside the game's big four. In today's quarter-finals in the other half of the draw Rafael Nadal meets Stanislas Wawrinka while Novak Djokovic takes on Tommy Haas. Meanwhile, Federer's failure to reach the semi-finals here for only the second time in nine years ensures that Murray will stay at No 2 in the world rankings at the end of the tournament.
Federer had looked vulnerable in his previous match, when he was taken to five sets by Gilles Simon, but the Swiss appeared in no such trouble when he made an early break in the first set. From the moment he served at 4-3 and 40-15, however, Federer's mistakes multiplied. There were some horrible misses: limp drive volleys, routine smashes that missed by two feet or were dumped into the net and careless errors from the back of the court when under no pressure.
Tsonga, who performed consistently well but rarely had to play out of his skin, broke to level at 4-4 and again to take the first set, Federer shanking a forehand on the fourth set point. Tsonga took the second set after breaking Federer to love in the second game courtesy of a wayward backhand by the Swiss.
Federer's double fault on break point gave Tsonga the chance to draw first blood in the opening game of the third set. The world No 3 broke back immediately, but from 15-15 in the seventh game he put a woeful smash in the net, hit a forehand long and then saw Tsonga chase down a drop shot and hit the ball into his body via a deflection off the top of the net. Two games later Tsonga broke for the sixth time to take the match as Federer hit a backhand long.
"I'm pretty sad about the match and the way I played," a subdued Federer said afterwards. "In all areas he was better than me today." He added: "This is obviously a crushing loss and I'm disappointed about it, but now I look forward to other things. I love the grass-court season, especially as it's been 10 years since my first Wimbledon victory."
Tsonga, who at Wimbledon two years ago became the first player to beat Federer from two-sets down in a Grand Slam match, said victory was reward for all the hard work he had put in recently. Asked what words had been exchanged at the net at the finish, Tonsga said with a smile: "I thanked him for letting me win this time because in the past it was not always this way."
Serena Williams extended her winning run to 29 matches when she secured a place in the semi-finals by beating Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion here, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Williams, who had dropped only 10 games in her four previous matches, lost her way in the second set and trailed 2-0 in the third before winning five games in a row to restore order.
Williams now faces Sara Errani, the world No 5, in Thursday's semi-finals. The Italian, a surprise finalist here last year, recorded the first win of her career against a top -five opponent when she beat Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 4, 6-4, 7-6.
Robson brings in ex-Murray coach
Miles Maclagan, who used to coach Andy Murray, is to work with Laura Robson. The 19-year-old Briton has been without a coach since parting company with Zeljko Krajan last month.
Maclagan, a former British Davis Cup player, said: "We're going to start out for a little period over the grass to see how things go."
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