PARIS — As the chilly evening air swirled, and raindrops fell, and the thousands of spectators pulling for his opponent hushed, Novak Djokovic stood a single point from exiting the French Open.
A single point from losing to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
A single point from losing the chance to pursue a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title, something no man has done in 43 years.
Steeling himself with so much at stake, Djokovic came through, taking that crucial point thanks to an overhead that skimmed off the baseline to set up a putaway volley. Seconds later, he faced the same predicament – one point from defeat – and came through again, this time with a leaping forehand that barely landed in. All told, Djokovic faced four match points against Tsonga and won each one, extending the contest until seizing control for good.
No. 1-ranked Djokovic won his 26th Grand Slam match in a row Tuesday, coming back and beating the fifth-seeded Tsonga 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1 to set up a French Open rematch against 16-time major champion Roger Federer.
A year ago in the semifinals at Roland Garros, Federer ended Djokovic’s 43-match winning streak, the last time he lost at one of tennis’ four most important tournaments.
Federer also fashioned a come-from-behind victory, and while he never was confronted with a match point, he did drop the first two sets before getting past No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro – who upset Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final – 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.
The pair of riveting five-set men’s quarterfinals were quite a feast for fans after the light fare of the women’s straight-set quarterfinals.
No. 21 Sara Errani entered Tuesday with an 0-28 record against top-10 opponents but reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating No. 10 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Errani now faces U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, who is seeded sixth. Stosur eliminated No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-1.