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Djokovic, Federer back from the brink

sports Updated: Jun 06, 2012 02:09 IST
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Paris: Roger Federer reached a record-equalling 31st Grand Slam semi-final Tuesday, surviving a brutal French Open barrage from frail Juan Martin del Potro before clinching a 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 triumph.

Novak Djokovic came back from the brink to save four match points before he downed local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1 in the French Open quarter-finals and keep alive his dream of holding all four Grand Slams.

Serbian world No 1 Djokovic, looking to become the first man in 43 years to win the four majors consecutively, kept cool under tremendous pressure to save four match points on his serve in the fourth set, forcing a tiebreak he won 8-6 before breaking decisively early in the fifth.

Djokovic, who will join American Don Budge and Australian Rod Laver in the club of players having held all four major titles at once if he lifts the Musketeers Cup, will now take third seed Roger Federer in a re-match of last year's epic semi-final won by the Swiss.

Weak knees

Third seed Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam winner and 2009 champion in Paris, came back from two sets to love down for the seventh time.

It was cruel luck on the 1.98m Del Potro, who had looked on course for a straight sets win after unleashing a brutal wave of power-hitting off both wings which left Federer floundering in the first two sets.

However, his hopes were finally sabotaged by a recurrence of the knee injury which has plagued him in Paris and which left him struggling to move by the end of Tuesday's match.

"I knew Juan Martin's knee was bothering him and was trying to finish the rallies quickly," said Federer. "I knew it would be a big fight today." Federer, playing in his 50th straight Grand Slam tournament and 32nd consecutive quarter-final at the majors, took an 11-2 career advantage over the towering Argentine into Tuesday's clash.

One of those wins came in a gripping Roland Garros semi-final in 2009 when he twice fought back from a set deficit to win in five before Del Potro gained revenge three months later with a first Grand Slam title triumph at the US Open. The 23-year-old Argentine had lost all five meetings with the Swiss since returning after almost a year out from wrist surgery in 2011.

But despite coming onto Suzanne Lenglen court with his left knee heavily strapped, he broke Federer three times in the opening set to take the early advantage.

Federer had been struggling on first serve and on his backhand, but he managed the first break to lead 3-2 in the second set, coming out on top after a gruelling, brutal rally.

Paes-Vesnina in semis

Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina of Russia fought their way to the mixed doubles semifinals of the French Open with a thrilling 4-6, 7-5 ,10-5 victory over Max Mirnyi and Liezel Huber.

Paes-Vesnina will now meet Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Santiago Gonzalez in the semis.

Indian pair of Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi also reached the mixed doubles semifinals after shocking second seeds Kveta Peschke and Mike Bryan 6-2, 6-3.