Federer, Tsonga reach Australian Open semis

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In a record that will surely stand the test of time, Federer on Wednesday night advanced to his 23rd consecutive grand slam semi-final with an iron-willed four-set comeback victory over Nikolay Davydenko at the Australian Open.

"It's incredible looking back on how many years that is now that I'm able to deliver at grand-slam play," Federer said after rallying from a set and a service break down to snap the Russian's own impressive 13-match winning streak with a 2-6-3 6-0 7-5 quarter-final triumph at Melbourne Park.

"Especially this year, I think, looking at the draw with Hewitt in the fourth round and Davydenko in the quarters, who has been on fire the last weeks. "Even today we saw big signs of it, why he's such a great player. "So, for some reason, I was just a bit worried I was not going to make it this time to the semis. You always believe the streak is going to be broken.

"I stopped thinking about it after the second round on and just started focusing on the tournament "It helps once the tournament starts. You focus match for match and point for point, so I forget about the record. "Now obviously that it's safe again and I've been able to add one, it's amazing. "Definitely one of the most incredible things I have in my resume."

Federer will play Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Novak Djokovic in a late finishing quarter-final on Wednesday night. Former champion Djokovic held a two sets to one lead, before an upset stomach caused him to meekly surrender the fourth set, and Tsonga pressed home his advantage in the decider. The 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (5-7) 1-6 6-3 6-1 victory over the man who downed him in the 2008 final gives Muhammad Ali look-alike Tsonga a semi-final shot at world No.1 Roger Federer.

But if he is to make his second Australian Open final he will need to cut the errors from his game. What the match lacked in brilliance, it made up for in tension, drama and changes of fortune. The turning point came early in the fourth, when Djokovic began to clutch repeatedly at his stomach, before calling a medical time-out so he could leave the court to throw up. Tsonga seized his chance, racing through the fourth set with little trouble, then with the finish line in sight, quickly delivering the knockout blow in the fifth.

Federer's phenomenal run at the majors ranks alongside the likes of Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France wins, Michael Jordan's seven NBA scoring titles on the spin, Edwin Moses' 122 successive 400m hurdles victories, Steve Redgrave's five successive Olympic rowing gold medals, Byron Nelson's 11 straight PGA Tour titles, Tiger Woods' 142 straight PGA cuts made and squash legend Jahangir Khan's 555-match winning streak.

Federer's record puts Rod Laver's 12 straight semi-finals - either side of his grand slam exile from 1963-67 - and Ivan Lendl's modern-era second-best 10 straight from 1985-88 into the shade. Federer's victory also clinched the world No.1 ranking for a 268th week, matching Jimmy Connors - the pair now tied for third behind only Pete Sampras (286 weeks) and Lendl (270 weeks) on the all-time list of longest reigns.

Federer was halfway to the Melbourne Park exit gates after dropping the opening set and staring a double break in the face in the second set. But the 15-times major champion barely blinked before reeling off 13 straight games - and winning 51 of the next 64 points in the process - to avert disaster against a confident foe who'd won their two most encounters over the past month.

"It was in a tough situation at 6-2, 3-1 down and 15-40 on my serve," Federer said.  "I knew I wasn't looking very good.  "But that's the beauty of best of five sets. I wasn't panicking, even though I maybe would have lost the second set had I lost another point there at that stage. "But I just relaxed and thought, you know, maybe if the sun goes and his level drops just a little bit, the whole thing might change for the better.  "It did. I couldn't believe the way it changed, but I'm happy the way I was able to go on an incredible run and get the cushion with the extra break at the beginning of the fourth."

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