PARIS – A point from losing the first set of his French Open quarterfinal, Roger Federer shanked a routine forehand, sending the ball 10 feet beyond the opposite baseline.
The Court Philippe Chatrier crowd roared with approval, then loudly chanted the last name of Federer’s opponent, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
That shot was a clear indication that Federer was hardly Federesque on this day. There were plenty of others: He argued with the chair umpire about a call. He dumped overhead smashes into the net. And in a truly rare ungraceful moment, he failed to put a racket to – or get out of the way of – a backhand flip by a sliding Tsonga, instead getting hit on the back.
All in all, Federer looked lost out there Tuesday against the sixth-seeded Tsonga, who pounded his way to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 17-time Grand Slam champion in a 1-hour, 51-minute mismatch remarkable for its lopsidedness and brevity.
“I struggled a little bit everywhere. To be honest, personally, I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played. But that’s how it goes. I tried to figure things out, but it was difficult. And Jo does a good job keeping the pressure on,” Federer said.
“He was just … better in all areas,” Federer continued. “He returned better than I did. Served better than I did. I struggled to find my rhythm.”
While Federer quickly faced a big deficit Tuesday and never recovered, Serena Williams was able to get out of a much smaller spot of trouble.
Trailing in the third set against 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, the No. 1-seeded Williams won five games in a row en route to a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory that put her back in the semifinals at Paris after a decade’s absence.
Williams had lost four consecutive quarterfinals at Roland Garros and so when she was serving while down 2-0 in the final set Tuesday, “I thought, you know, ‘Can’t go out like this again.’ ”
“Unbelievable competitor,” Kuznetsova said.
“She turns on (her) game when she needs it.”
Next for Tsonga will be No. 4 David Ferrer, who stopped the wild ride of No. 32 Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Spanish quarterfinal. Robredo won each of his previous three matches despite dropping the first two sets, the first man since 1927 to do that a Grand Slam tournament.