Sunday, June 02, 2013

Roger Federer survives scare to reach another quarter-final at French Open

For a while, it looked as though Gilles Simon had not read the script on Sunday evening in Paris. But Roger Federer fought back from two-sets-to-one down to beat the Frenchman 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to record his 900th tour-level match win and set a Roland Garros quarter-final clash withJo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In becoming the fourth player in the Open Era to reach the 900 wins milestone, 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer reached his 36th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final. Federer has not lost prior to the quarter-finals of a major since 2004 Roland Garros, when he was beaten in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten.

Federer goes into the clash with Tsonga with a 9-3 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He has won their past five meetings, but did lose to the Frenchman in the 2011 Wimbledonquarter-finals. The 31-year-old Federer is looking to lift the trophy atRoland Garros for the second time, following victory in 2009 (d. Soderling), when he completed the career Grand Slam.

For the first 40 minutes or so, Federer looked as though he would comfortably secure his fourth win in six meetings with Simon. The Swiss made a strong start to the match, racing to a 5-1 lead. He won a lengthy seventh game to clinch the opening set, but Simon was not cowed. The resilient Frenchman stayed with Federer in the early stages of the second set and made a significant breakthrough in the seventh game. Federer suffered a fall on the baseline, which appeared to rattle the Swiss as he lost his forehand rhythm. Simon capitalised for a 4-3 lead and went on to level the match.

Buoyed by his success, Simon maintained his high level and took advantage of an increasing number of uncharacteristic errors from Federer in the third set, breaking in the fifth and seventh games to take the lead in the match.

Federer fired himself up in the fourth set, reined in the errors, and broke through Simon’s defences in the sixth game, meeting with a roar of approval from the unpartisan Philippe Chatrier crowd. He continued to chip away at Simon and clinched the set with another service break in the eighth game.

Federer capitalised on his momentum and gained a crucial break of serve in the second game of the decider as Simon went long with a forehand. The Swiss then served out victory in the ninth game, not without one final piece of drama as he saved two break points, prevailing on his second match point in one minute shy of three hours.

Simon was bidding to reach his second Grand Slam quarter-final and first at Roland Garros, having reached the last eight at the 2009 Australian Open (l. to Nadal). He had won two five-set matches to reach the round of 16, rallying from two sets down to beat Lleyton Hewitt in the first round and going the distance against Sam Querrey in the third round.

Well it was his 900th win so of course it had to be dramatic!. These kinds of mini-heart attacks is what I love and hate about this sport.  

Perhaps Federer needed this little scare to prepare him for what's ahead. Tsonga will not be a walk in the park (and I really do hope Federer's ankle is not injured in any way).  

It only gets tougher from here, I would have preferred a much more comfortable win but this was a good test that will hopefully help him in the quarters.  Should be another nail biter for sure!.

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