Former champion Roger Federer fought back to beat Gilles Simon in five sets and keep alive his pursuit of a second French Open title.
No. 2 seed Federer beat the Frenchman 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros yesterday to move to a record-extending 36th straight quarterfinal at the four tennis Grand Slams.
“If you have a negative attitude, you end up losing,” Federer said in a court-side interview after his 900th career victory. “So many years, so many matches, so many sacrifices.”
Only Jimmy Connors (1,156), Ivan Lendl (1,068) and Guillermo Vilas (940) have won more matches on the men’s tennis tour than the 31-year-old from Switzerland.
Earlier yesterday, women’s top seed Serena Williams conceded four games to Roberta Vinci, the world’s best doubles player, in moving to the last eight, where she’ll face former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Third-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain resumes his men’s title defense today against Kei Nishikori, the No. 13 seed from Japan, while No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia faces Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 16th seed. Women’s defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia plays No. 17 Sloane Stephens of the U.S.
Federer, who hasn’t lost before the quarterfinal stages of a major since the 2004 French Open, raced through the first set against Simon in 37 minutes yesterday.
Serving at 3-3 in the second, Federer fell as he got his foot stuck in the clay while running down a shot on the baseline. He hit a double fault after that, and got broken as he sent a forehand long. Simon, 28, took the second set as Federer hit a backhand long.
“I fell, I don’t know exactly what happened,” Federer said. “It changed the second set, and then it was very different for me.”
The normally defensive Simon dictated play in the third set, twice breaking serve as he put the 17-time major winner under pressure from the back of the court with winners off both sides. Another backhand error by Federer, this time in the net, handed Simon the third set. Federer then forced a final set by twice breaking Simon’s serve in the fourth with attacking play.
Simon got broken again early on in the fifth set as the crowd cheered for both players. Federer won the match on a wide backhand by Simon.
Federer, the 2009 winner, may be tested again in his next match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, another Frenchman. The sixth-seeded Tsonga, who beat Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 yesterday, knocked Federer out of the Wimbledon quarterfinals two years ago.
Earlier, No. 32 seed Tommy Robredo made history in his 6-7 (5-7), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win against fellow Spaniard and No. 11 seed Nicolas Almagro. He’s the first man since France’s Henri Cochet at Wimbledon in 1927 to fight back from two sets to love down in three straight Grand Slam matches.
Robredo, a 31-year-old who had slumped to No. 471 last year following surgery on his leg, cried and fell on his knees on Court Suzanne Lenglen after his victory. He’ll play another Spaniard, No. 4 seed David Ferrer, in the quarterfinals. Ferrer spent less energy, beating South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.
“What is very important is that today I won this match,” Robredo said. “I won a big match against a player who defeated me five times. And the rest is only records, for history.”
Williams beat Italy’s Vinci 6-1, 6-3. Williams, the 2002 champion, has only dropped 10 games in four matches in Paris. Her fourth-round win against the 15th-seeded Vinci extended her unbeaten run to 28, the longest of her career.
“I’m happy to get to the second week,” the American said in French in a court-side interview. “Especially because I didn’t get there last year.”
Williams was ousted in the opening round of Roland Garros in 2012, her earliest Grand Slam defeat. Since then, she’s only lost three matches, and won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open as well as singles and doubles gold medals at the London Olympics.
The 31-year-old will next play Russia’s Kuznetsova, who upset Germany’s No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Kuznetsova defeated Williams in the quarterfinals of 2009 Roland Garros, when she went on to win the title.
“She’s been playing unbelievable tennis,” Kuznetsova, who also won the 2004 U.S. Open, said of Williams. “But I believe that I have the game. Let’s cross fingers I will have a good day.”
Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 4 seed from Poland, hit 18 winners and made just five unforced errors in beating 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-4 to reach her first French Open quarterfinal. Radwanska next plays fifth-seeded Sara Errani, last year’s runner-up from Italy, who overcame Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets.
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