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TENNIS: Federer remains a favorite in France

by JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer on June 03, 2013 10:20 AM

PARIS — Roger Federer’s route toward a second French Open title will pit him against another Frenchman in the quarterfinals, although judging by the way his fourth-round win was greeted Sunday, he might feel like he’s the one playing at home.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion beat 15th-seeded Gilles Simon 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach his 36th consecutive major quarterfinal and next takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last eight Tuesday.

“It’s been an amazing run, and I’m happy I’m still on it,” Federer, 31, said.

Beating Simon was more difficult than dispatching Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the third round. The crowd gave Simon an ovation when he trudged off center court, but there was a palpable sense of relief that Federer had stayed on course to repeat his 2009 French Open win.

That was evident in the sixth game of the fourth set, when he turned potential defeat into victory by breaking Simon for a 4-2 lead, and in the fifth set when he broke for a 2-0 lead after Simon’s forehand from the back of the court bounced out.

“Of course I would like to have had more support,” Simon said. “If I don’t get it here, I won’t ever get it.”

Federer’s popularity at Roland Garros is so great that Tsonga also might feel like the outsider when he takes on the Swiss star.

Tsonga trails Federer 9-3 in their matches. He has beaten him in a Grand Slam, when he rallied from two sets down to win their 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinal, but Federer won their three other meetings in majors, twice at the Australian Open, once at the U.S. Open.

“I won’t be taking him on any differently to how I have taken him on in the past,” Federer said. “He’s a very good player, Tsonga. He’s dangerous, dangerous for everybody ranked in the top four in the world. He’s proved his worth in the past.”

Before they play their match, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and seven-time champion Rafael Nadal will try to join them in the last eight with victories today.

The third-seeded Nadal plays 13th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and Djokovic takes on No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

The spotlight will be firmly on Djokovic, who suffered a personal loss Saturday when his first coach, Jelena Gencic, died in Belgrade, Serbia, at the age of 76.

In other men’s fourth-round matches: seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet goes against No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and No. 12 Tommy Haas of Germany takes on No. 29 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.

Defending champion Maria Sharapova’s match against No. 17 Sloane Stephens is the pick of the women’s fourth round.

Federer was in danger of his earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament in nine years — but ended up writing another line in the history books, despite twisting his right foot awkwardly during the match when he tumbled to the ground.

“It wasn’t because of the fall that I started losing,” Federer said. “It was really because of the quality of Gilles’ game.”

It was Federer’s 58th win in his French Open career, against 13 losses, equaling the mark for most tournament wins held by Guillermo Vilas and Nicola Pietrangeli. It also was his 900th career victory anywhere, which puts him fourth in men’s tour history, behind only Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Vilas.

While Federer continued one streak, so did Serena Williams in reaching the last eight.

The 15-time major champion has lost only 10 games and beat No. 15 Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-3 to extend her winning streak to 28 matches and set up a quarterfinal against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion who is unseeded this year.

“I honestly don’t even consider it like a streak. Every day everybody is like, You’re on this streak,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, I just want to hold up the winner’s trophy.”

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