WORLD No1 Novak Djokovic is set for a mouth-watering semi-final French Open clash with Roger Federer after both players fought back to secure epic quarter final wins.
A battling Djokovic survived four match points last night to emerge victorious from a five set struggle against the local favourite and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Serbian’s hopes of holding all four grand slam titles were kept alive after he sprung back from the brink of defeat in the fourth set to win a crucial tie-break.
Frenchman Tsonga was two sets to one up when presented with several match points in the fourth set, yet could not find a way past the obdurate reigning champion, who held out to win 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1.
“He was the better player for most of the match,” said a magnanimous Djokovic after the match.
“I was fortunate to come back from four match points. I don’t know how I came back from that,” he added, having overcome a vociferous and partisan French crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Djokovic tore into his opponent in a convincing first set that lasted little over 20 minutes and saw him concede only nine points.
Yet Tsonga found his feet midway through the second set and began punching trademark forehand drives past his top seeded opponent, breaking Djokovic twice to reverse an earlier break.
The French locals were briefly silenced in the third set as Djokovic broke early on, yet a determined Tsonga sprung straight back to level the scores at 2-2. With the momentum behind him, Tsonga grabbed the lead before sealing the set with a running forehand across the Serb.
A nail-biting fifth set climaxed with the scores at 5-4 and Tsonga enjoying two match points. Yet Djokovic volleyed back the first before smashing a Tsonga serve back past him to save the situation.
And with the scores at 6-5 he faced another two match points, yet Tsonga netted for the first and then lost out in a compelling rally as Djokovic continued his Houdini act before grabbing the subsequent tie-break by eight points to six.
Having been so close to victory the writing now seemed to be on the wall for Tsonga, who was broken twice in the final set by a resurgent Djokovic.
If Djokovic wins all four grand slams he will become the first man to do so since Australian Rod Laver achieved the historic feat in 1969.
Yet Federer now stands in his way after the former world No1 completed his own Herculean comeback against ninth seed Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro stormed into a two set lead but was hindered by an apparent knee injury and Federer convincingly took the final three sets to win 3-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
Britain’s Andy Murray, meanwhile, retains hopes of meeting either Federer of Djokovic in the final, yet said yesterday that he is not looking beyond one match at a time. “I think he’s one of the toughest guys to play on any surface,” Murray said of his quarter-final opponent David Ferrer, who he faces today.
“He’s number six in the world, and he’s been there for a long time now. He’s had a good clay-court season so far. I’ve always found it tough against him on clay in matches and in practice.”
The Scot has lost all three previous ties against Spaniard Ferrer on clay.