Tsonga beats Federer to keep French Open dream alive
JO-WILFRIED Tsonga produced one of the best performances of his career to defeat Roger Federer and keep alive hopes of a home winner at the French Open.
Not since Yannick Noah 30 years ago has a Frenchman lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires, but Tsonga showed he will be a tough man to beat with a thumping 7-5 6-3 6-3 victory over Federer to reach his first semi-final at Roland Garros.
There Tsonga will meet fourth seed David Ferrer, the only other man in the tournament who has not dropped a set, after he ended the run of Tommy Robredo.
Federer's defeat, meanwhile, means it will be the first time since Rafael Nadal played Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon three years ago that a grand slam final has been contested by a player outside the big four.
Federer had to come back from two sets to one down against Tsonga's countryman Gilles Simon in the fourth round but began in fine fashion today, breaking serve to lead 3-2.
A sloppy game gave Tsonga parity at 4-4, though, and it was a taste of things to come.
The Frenchman has never been one of tennis' Mr Consistents, but he seems to trust his game more since working with Australian coach Roger Rasheed and he was more than matching Federer off the ground.
The Roland Garros crowd love Federer and supported him when he was behind against Simon, but there was no doubt they were on Tsonga's side today.
They made Federer wait to serve at 5-6 while a Mexican wave swept round Court Philippe Chatrier, and if it was designed to rattle the Swiss then it worked.
A few moments later and Tsonga had three set points. Federer was mistiming the ball a lot off his backhand in particular, but conjured a superb pass at full stretch as he pulled back to deuce.
Tsonga may have felt he had missed his chance but a fourth chance came along and this time Federer shanked a forehand.
The second seed was not playing well and was broken to love at the start of the second set. Tsonga, however, was playing brilliantly and he piled on the pressure with two stunning backhand passes at 4-1.
Federer held on there but it was clear the 2009 champion was in major trouble.
He had fought back from two sets to love down at the same stage last year against Juan Martin Del Potro but he made the worst possible start to the third today when he double-faulted on break point.
This time Federer broke back but he was under pressure in every service game and Tsonga broke through again to lead 4-3. To add insult to injury, the Frenchman's drilled shot flicked off the top of the net and hit Federer.
And there was to be no fightback from the 31-year-old as he was broken again, with Tsonga wrapping up victory in an hour and 51 minutes.
It was a particularly sweet victory for the sixth seed after he came so close at the same stage last year, holding match points against Novak Djokovic before going down in five.
He will have to be on top form to go any further, though, with Ferrer continuing his march through the draw with a 6-2 6-1 6-1 victory over Robredo.
It was no real surprise given Robredo's exploits this week - the Spaniard had come back from two sets down in three successive matches.