Federer reaches last eight after five-set thriller

FORMER world No1 Roger Federer overcame a difficult hurdle in Gilles Simon at the French Open yesterday to reach his 36th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.

The 31-year-old battled the determined 15th seed in a gruelling five-set thriller to keep alive his hopes of winning a second French Open title and add to his 2009 triumph.

“It [36 quarter-finals] is something I’m very proud of and one day I’ll look back and realise the sacrifices I made to achieve it,” Federer said.

This was also the Swiss star’s 900th career win, becoming only the fourth man to reach that milestone after Jimmy Connors (1,242), Ivan Lendl (1,071) and Guillermo Vilas (924).

“It was fantastic – a super pleasure to play a match over five sets here,” Federer said. “If you become negative, you lose and go home. It was very difficult for me.”

After a straightforward first set, Federer saw aggressive opposition from the Frenchman he easily beat barely a month ago in Rome.

Simon snatched nine wins from 12 games to lead 2-1 in sets. But Federer responded in the way he knows best.

He broke in the fourth set for 4-2 and then pushed further before the faltering Simon gave away the set.

And, in front of a partisan crowd on court Philippe Chatrier, Federer took full advantage of his momentum to take the first three games of the deciding set.

Simon tried to fight back, but the tide had already turned. Federer secured the final set and the match 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

In the quarter-finals Federer will meet Jo Wilfred-Tsonga, who ruthlessly and efficiently dispatched Victor Troicki 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Spaniard Tommy Robredo became the first man in 86 years to successfully come back from two sets down in three consecutive Grand Slam matches against compatriot Nicolas Almagro, winning 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Italian Roberta Vinci failed to apply any real resistance to women’s top seed Serena Williams, who strolled into the quarter-final, 6-1, 6-3.

And, former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic lost in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, to No4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.