Federer battles past Simon for milestone win

Roger Federer fought back from two-sets-to-one down to beat the Frenchman 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to record his 900th tour-level match win and set a Roland Garros quarter-final clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“I knew 900 was on the line,” said Federer. “I'm just happy I have been able to win a lot of matches throughout my career, giving myself an opportunity over and over again. I love this game.”

In becoming the fourth player in the Open Era to reach the 900 wins milestone, 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer won a record-tying 58th match at Roland Garros (Nicola Pietrangeli, Guillermo Vilas) and reached his 36th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final. Federer has not lost prior to the quarter-finals of a major since 2004 Roland Garros, when he was beaten in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten.

“The number is unbelievable. I probably would have been happy with one at one point in my career, when I was younger,” Federer said. “Eventually you raise the bar and say, ‘Okay, hopefully I can reach my first semi-final’, like in 2003 at Wimbledon. I went on to win the tournament and the rest we know. It's been an amazing run and I'm happy I'm still on it.”

Federer goes into the clash with Tsonga with a 9-3 lead in their Head2Head series. He has won their past five meetings, but did lose to the Frenchman in the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finals. The 31-year-old Federer is looking to lift the trophy at Roland Garros for the second time, following victory in 2009 (d. Soderling), when he completed the career Grand Slam.

For the first 40 minutes or so, Federer looked as though he would comfortably secure his fourth win in six meetings with Simon. The Swiss made a strong start to the match, racing to a 5-1 lead. He won a lengthy seventh game to clinch the opening set, but Simon was not cowed. The resilient Frenchman stayed with Federer in the early stages of the second set and made a significant breakthrough in the seventh game as he began to unleash newly aggressive tactics.

Federer suffered a fall on the baseline, which appeared to rattle the Swiss as he lost his forehand rhythm. Simon capitalised for a 4-3 lead and went on to level the match.

"I didn't hurt myself," said Federer. "But maybe I did lose that touch of confidence, and I was out of the match for a bit. I'm happy I found a way and was able to tidy up my play. Stayed calm under pressure. He seized his opportunity. He got the advantage and he made my life difficult."

Buoyed by his success, Simon maintained his high level and took advantage of an increasing number of uncharacteristic errors from Federer in the third set, breaking in the fifth and seventh games to take the lead in the match.

Federer fired himself up in the fourth set, reined in the errors, and broke through Simon’s defences in the sixth game, meeting with a roar of approval from the unpartisan Philippe Chatrier crowd. He continued to chip away at Simon and clinched the set with another service break in the eighth game.

Federer capitalised on his momentum and gained a crucial break of serve in the second game of the decider as Simon went long with a forehand. The Swiss then served out victory in the ninth game, not without one final piece of drama as he saved two break points, prevailing on his second match point in one minute shy of three hours. Simon’s attacking play had Federer in trouble for a while, but his high-risk strategy ultimately yielded 47 unforced errors.

"It was beautiful, it's always special to play matches like that," 2009 champion and firm Paris favourite Federer said at courtside. "You always remember matches like this."

"At the end of the day, I work hard to be exactly in this situation in a tough match where the crowd is going crazy and you want to stay calm within the storm," told reporters.

"Honestly, for me, it's what I play for."

''He managed to raise his game when he wasn't playing well,'' said Simon.

Date: 2nd June 2013, Source: ATP and Reuters


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