History can wait as Federer tackles Tsonga

History can wait as Federer tackles Tsonga

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
History can wait as Federer tackles Tsonga

Switzerland’s Roger Federer hits a shot to India’s Somdev Devvarman during their French Tennis Open match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, on May 29, 2013. AFP Photo

Roger Federer will only admire his record-breaking achievements when he quits tennis as he concentrates his mind on plotting a path past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in today’s French Open quarterfinals.

Federer racked up his 900th career win in dramatic circumstances when he reached a 36th consecutive Grand Slam last-eight with a 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over French 15th seed Gilles Simon.

It was the 31-year-old’s record-equalling 58th win at Roland Garros, although he did it the hard way, briefly staring at his earliest exit at a major since losing to Gustavo Kuerten in Paris in the third round in 2004.

The 2009 champion, the holder of 17 Grand Slam titles, will tackle French sixth seed Tsonga for a place in an eighth Roland Garros semi-final.

Beating Tsonga for the 10th time in 13 meetings is the Swiss star’s most pressing concern after a roller-coaster last-16 clash with Simon which saw him bedevilled by 56 unforced errors.

First win back in 1998

“Records I will look back on when I’m not playing anymore, and go like, That was incredible that I was able to achieve this,” said Federer, playing in a 54th straight Grand Slam.

“Because this isn’t just a one week thing or one year thing. This is such a long period of time that I had to fight through matches.”

Federer won his first match on tour back in September 1998 when, just 17, he defeated another French player, Guillaume Raoux in Toulouse.

His 900 wins, however, still lag behind Jimmy Connors’ all-time mark of 1,156 or even second-placed Ivan Lendl on 1,068 although Guillermo Vilas’s 940 is within his sights.

“The number (of 34 successive Grand Slam quarter-finals) is unbelievable. I probably would have been happy with one at one point in my career, when I was younger and eventually you raise the bar and say, Okay, hopefully I can reach my first semi-finals, like in 2003 at Wimbledon.

“I went on to win the tournament. It’s been an amazing run, and I’m happy I’m still on it.”

Federer had at least half the crowd on his side on Sunday, willing him to recover from his two sets to one deficit against Simon. He will face the same atmosphere against Tsonga on Tuesday.

Tsonga lost the pair’s only meeting on clay, in Rome in 2011 in straight sets although he did famously beat Federer in the Wimbledon quarter-finals later that year.

‘Great friend’

“I’m looking forward to the match against Jo Willy. It’s a big challenge playing him here in Paris. He’s a great friend of mine. I think we’re both looking forward to this match.”

Tsonga, who is bidding to become the first French men’s champion in Paris since Yannick Noah in 1983, has made the last-eight for a second successive season.

But he has a point to prove to the crowd as well as himself.

Twelve months ago at the same stage, he squandered four match points against Novak Djokovic.
“Until the end of my days I will have it in my mind. Even though I have done better this year, it was a high point in my sporting career last year,” said Tsonga.

“Unfortunately, of course, the end was tragic, if I can put it that way, but it’s one of the major high points of my career.”