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Djokovic faces Federer in semis after great French Open escape

updated 4:08 PM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
Novak Djokovic roars with relief after coming through his five-set quarterfinal against French Open crowd favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Roland Garros. Novak Djokovic roars with relief after coming through his five-set quarterfinal against French Open crowd favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Roland Garros.
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Nole's great escape
Testing times
Djokovic's destiny?
Tsonga's heartbreak
Second time lucky?
Del Potro's pain
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Novak Djokovic saves four match-points to reach French Open semifinals
  • World No. 1 ends France's hopes of first male winner since 1983
  • Serbian seeking to be first man since 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles
  • He will play 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer in Friday's semi

(CNN) -- World No. 1 Novak Djokovic battled back from the brink of defeat at the French Open on Tuesday to rescue his hopes of becoming the first man in 43 years to hold all four grand slam titles.

The Serbian saved four match-points before finally overcoming home favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

Djokovic, who has never reached the final at Roland Garros, triumphed 6-1 5-7 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 against the fifth seed in a scintillating match lasting just over four hours.

The 25-year-old set up a rematch with 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, who beat Djokovic in the Paris semifinals last year to end his 43-match winning run.

"He was the better player for most of the match and I was fortunate to come back from four match-points down. It was an incredible match," said Djokovic, who won the first and fifth sets in a combined time of just 53 minutes.

Rafael Nadal, right, was apologetic after winning 17 games in a row in his straight-sets destruction of good friend Juan Monaco in the fourth round of the French Open. Rafael Nadal, right, was apologetic after winning 17 games in a row in his straight-sets destruction of good friend Juan Monaco in the fourth round of the French Open.
'Sorry, mate'
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Nadal on course to meet Murray Nadal on course to meet Murray
Hantuchova expects Sharapova victory
Spirit, fitness and David Ferrer
Michael Chang's historic French victory

The hopes of a nation had rested on Tsonga, playing in the quarterfinals of his home event for the first time, but France's wait for a first male champion since Yannick Noah in 1983 must continue.

Instead, Djokovic will have a day's rest before continuing his bid to match Australia's Rod Laver, who twice won all four grand slams in a calendar year -- as an amateur in 1962 and then as a professional at the start of the Open era in 1969.

"I did what I said I would and gave everything. I came close and I would have loved to have won," said Tsonga, who had vowed before the match to "fight like a lion."

"It's a shame because I was pretty close, but at the end I had no energy left. Now I will have to close this chapter," the 27-year-old added.

Federer reached the last four at a major for a record-equaling 31st time as he came from two sets down to end the hopes of injury-hampered Juan Martin Del Potro.

The Swiss third seed won 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-0 6-3 in a virtual repeat of their 2009 semifinal, when Federer went on to claim the Roland Garros crown for the first and only time in his illustrious career.

Del Potro avenged that defeat by beating Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final for his only major success, but this time the Argentine ninth seed could not maintain his ferocious opening momentum.

"I knew Juan Martin's knee was bothering him and was trying to finish the rallies quickly," Federer said. "I knew it would be a big fight today."

The other two quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday, when world No. 2 Rafael Nadal continues his bid for a record seventh title as he takes on fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, the 12th seed.

Britain's world No. 4 Andy Murray faces a big test of his hopes of winning his first grand slam as he lines up against sixth seed David Ferrer, who has won all of their three clay clashes.

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