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Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning his quarter final match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday June 5, 2012. Djokovic won in five sets 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Open: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer rally to reach semifinals
Grand Slam » Both stars need five sets to advance at Roland Garros.
First Published Jun 05 2012 11:14 am • Last Updated Jun 06 2012 12:01 am

Paris • Top-seeded Novak Djokovic saved four match points Tuesday to set up a French Open semifinal against Roger Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam champion who came back from two sets down to win.

Djokovic of Serbia beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 in a quarterfinal played in drizzle on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in Paris.

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"He was the better player for most of the match — I don’t know how I came back from four match points down," Djokovic said.

Federer, the No. 3 seed from Switzerland, beat Juan Martin del Potro, the ninth seed from Argentina, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second showcourt.

Djokovic is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in a row. He was up a set and break when the match turned.

It turned again in the fourth set, when Djokovic, serving to stay in the match, saved two match points at 4-5 and two more at 5-6.

One hour later, he clenched his fists as a victor, finishing with a backhand winner after 4 hours, 9 minutes.

"I was so close," Tsonga said. "But I had nothing left in my legs."

Djokovic, who came back from two sets down in his previous round against Italy’s Andreas Seppi, has never reached the Paris final.

"Tennis is very mental. Lots of emotions," said the No. 1-ranked Djokovic, who won Wimbledon last July, the U.S. Open last September, and the Australian Open in January. "If you’re playing a top player, a home favorite, and you have a crowd that’s supporting him, you have to face these things."

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Federer came back to beat del Potro and advance to the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the 31st time. He beat Djokovic at the same stage last year, ending a 43-match win streak.

Tuesday’s match lasted just under 31/2 hours and ended about the time Djokovic was forcing the fourth-set tiebreak. It was the first time Federer had come back from two sets down since the first round of Wimbledon in 2010, and raised his five-set record to 19-16.

Federer matched Jimmy Connors for the most Grand Slam semifinal spots, and tied Andre Agassi for second in major quarterfinal appearances with 36, behind Connors’s 41.

U.S. Open women’s champion Samantha Stosur beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-1 to set up a semifinal against Sara Errani. The Italian moved to her first major semifinal by defeating Angelique Kerber, the No. 10 seed from Germany, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2).

Stosur, 28, became the first Australian woman in 31 years to win a major singles title when she beat Serena Williams in last year’s U.S. Open final. She reached the title match of the French Open in 2010, losing to Italy’s Francesca Schiavone.

"I woke up feeling good this morning and had a good warm-up," Stosur said in a news conference. "I guess that just kind of transferred onto the match court and really did what I wanted to do quite well."

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