PARIS – As the chilly evening air swirled, and raindrops fell, and the thousands of spectators pulling for his opponent hushed, Novak Djokovic stood a single point from exiting the French Open.
A single point from losing to Frances Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
A single point from losing the chance to pursue a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title, something no man has done in 43 years.
Steeling himself with so much at stake, Djokovic came through, taking that crucial point thanks to an overhead that skimmed off the baseline to set up a putaway volley. Seconds later, he faced the same predicament – one point from defeat – and came through again, this time with a leaping forehand that barely landed in. All told, Djokovic faced four match points against Tsonga and won each one.
Djokovic won his 26th Grand Slam match in a row Tuesday, coming back and beating the fifth-seeded Tsonga 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1 to set up a French Open rematch against 16-time major champion Roger Federer. A year ago in the semifinals at Roland Garros, Federer ended Djokovics 43-match winning streak, the last time the Serb lost at one of tennis four most important tournaments.
Tennis is very mental. Lots of emotions, said the top-ranked Djokovic, who won Wimbledon last July, the U.S. Open last September, and the Australian Open in January. If youre playing a top player, a home favorite, and you have a crowd thats supporting him, you have to face these things. Physically, were all fit, all hitting the ball well. But mentally, its just a matter of a point here, a point there.
Federer also fashioned a come-from-behind victory, and while he never was confronted with a match point, he did drop the first two sets before getting past No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
After taking that big lead, del Potro – who upset Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final – appeared to be hampered increasingly by a left knee that was heavily wrapped in white tape.
The mens quarterfinals were quite a feast for fans after the light fare of the womens straight-set quarterfinals.
No. 21 Sara Errani of Italy entered Tuesday with an 0-28 record against top-10 opponents but reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating No. 10 Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Errani now faces U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, who is seeded sixth. Stosur eliminated No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1.
The last quarterfinals are today: No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 23 Kaia Kanepi, No. 4 Petra Kvitova vs. 142nd-ranked qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 12 Nicolas Almagro, and No. 4 Andy Murray vs. No. 6 David Ferrer.
Nadal is trying to become the first man to win seven French Open championships.