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Djokovic denies Tsonga in thriller

ESPN staff
June 5, 2012 « Federer battles back to see off Del Potro | Chartbeat test »
Novak Djokovic saved four match points in the fourth set © PA Photos
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Novak Djokovic kept his hopes of completing a career Grand Slam alive after he moved into the French Open semi-finals with a thrilling five-set victory over home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The world No. 1 saved four match points before securing a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer after a hard-fought 6-1 5-7 5-7 7-6(6) 6-1 victory at Roland Garros.

Tsonga, spurred on by a partisan French crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier, threatened to shatter Djokovic's hopes of securing the "Nole Slam" as he bounced back from losing the opening set to take a 2-1 lead, but the world No. 1 showed impressive strength of character to hold on for victory.

Tsonga had no answer to the top seed as Djokovic blazed through the opening set in just 21 minutes, and found himself a break down as he failed to hold onto his serve early in the second set. But after showing some resistance on Djokovic's serve, the Frenchman appeared to have shrugged off an early bout of nerves and he broke back to keep himself in the match.

The forehands that were flashing wide in the first set were now sneaking in, and Tsonga won three games on the bounce before grabbing a late break to level proceedings.

Tsonga's challenge appeared to be over when Djokovic grabbed an early break in the third set, but despite racing to a 40-0 lead on his ensuing service game, two unforced errors allowed Tsonga to break straight back.

Djokovic had two break points for a 6-5 lead, but after a reflex backhand volley at the net flashed wide, two booming serves from Tsonga saw him hold on before snatching another late break for the lead.

Tsonga showed no signs of nerves as he produced two aces to recover from break point down in the third, holding for a 5-4 lead. With Djokovic serving to stay in the tournament, a poor forehand brought up two match points for Tsonga, but the Serb saved both with some aggressive play.

Once again Djokovic was forced to serve to stay in the match at 6-5, saving two more match points - the second with an overhead smash - as he hung on to force the match to a decider.

Having demonstrated the strength of character that saw him rise to world No. 1 last year, Djokovic grabbed an early break, breaking Tsonga's resistance as the top seed held firm to close out the victory in four hours and nine minutes.

The top seed will now face Federer for a place in Sunday's final in a repeat of last year's semi-final when Federer beat Djokovic to bring an end to the Serb's 43-match unbeaten streak.

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