Melbourne: Roger Federer fended off a withering challenge from Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to prevail 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in Rod Laver Arena and reach the Australian Open semi-finals on Wednesday.
Seventh seed Tsonga unleashed a barrage of brilliant shot-making to level the match at two sets apiece but the Swiss maestro was composure personified as he captured the decisive break at 2-1 in the fifth.
Battling for survival, Tsonga saved four match points when serving to stay in the match, but Federer closed out victory on the fifth with an overhead smash to reach his 10th straight semi-final at Melbourne Park.
“It was a tough close for sure, but the whole match was tough. Any set could have gone any way,” the 31-year-old said in a courtside interview.
“I feel a bit lucky obviously to come through ... but it was great pleasure to play Jo because he played great too.
“We haven’t played for a year ... but I thought he played extremely aggressive.”
Federer, seeded second, will play third seed Andy Murray for a place in the final as he continues his bid for a fifth title at Melbourne Park. Earlier, Murray chalked out a clinical 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jeremy Chardy to make his 12th Grand Slam semi-final as he ruthlessly exploited his opponent’s weaker backhand with a number of successful raids to the net.
“I’m young, you know, I’ll recover quick — compared to the seniors, of course,” Federer joked. “I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great guy, a great player.”
Federer signalled his intent immediately, creating two break-points and he took the first with a blazing crosscourt return to break Tsonga in his opening service game.
Tsonga, a 2008 finalist, was unbowed, however, and unleashed a searing cross-court return before out-rallying Federer to break back and take the set into a tiebreak.
The Frenchman dropped his guard, allowing Federer a 3-0 head-start and yelped in dismay after slamming a backhand into the net to concede the first set.
Murray had carried out his game-plan to perfection and within a couple of hours of finishing his match, he was back out on court, practising under the lights to get a feel for the cooler conditions he will experience on Friday.
“I played a couple of matches [in the warm-up event] in Brisbane in the evening, but it’s slightly different there, as well, because there’s a roof,” said Murray, who has reached the last four without dropping a set.