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Federer fights his way into the quarterfinals

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SCRAPPY WIN: Roger Federer found himself down two sets and a breakpoint down in the third, but turned it around from there as Tommy Haas’s game disintegrated even as his own started falling in place.
SCRAPPY WIN: Roger Federer found himself down two sets and a breakpoint down in the third, but turned it around from there as Tommy Haas’s game disintegrated even as his own started falling in place.

Serena cruises ahead even as Jankovic makes her exit; Paes and Dlouhy march into the last four

PARIS: Roger Federer, with the imposing burden of Rafael Nadal now lifted from his shoulders, struggled under the weight of Tommy Haas’s challenge before winning a five-set French Open thriller on Monday.

One day after four-time champion Nadal was sensationally beaten at Roland Garros for the first time, Federer, suddenly the favourite for a maiden French Open title, came close to joining the Spaniard at the exit door. But the former world number one survived to beat 31-year-old Haas 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Tommy Robredo kept Spanish hopes alive as the 16th seed reached his fourth quarterfinal with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 win over Germany’s 29th seed Philipp KohlSchreiber.

Federer, who came into his last 16 clash with German veteran Haas boasting an 8-2 winning record, was close to suffering his earliest Grand Slam defeat since losing in the third round here to Gustavo Kuerten in 2004.

But the match turned when Haas, with a two-set lead, missed a chance to break in the eighth game of the third set which would have allowed him to serve for a famous victory.

Brilliant shot

Federer, with one brilliant, inside-out forehand that landed just on the line, saved the break point and raced through the rest of the tie taking 14 of the next 16 games.

“I thought that shot I made was probably the first good shot I had hit the whole match,” said Federer, the holder of 13 major titles and needing just a French Open to become only the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam.

Victory here on Sunday would also take him level with Pete Sampras on 14 Grand Slam titles, although the great American never won in Paris.

“I knew the significance of it and I realised that if I came out of it I would look back on that shot as the one that saved me. It was a great feeling because I was in some trouble there.”

Haas agreed that the break point chance was crucial.

“It was very close. It goes through your head that you could have served for the match. I wanted to play a good return, not too deep, but he hit the winner,” said the former world No. 2.

“You have to tip your hat to him. He went for it. It was too good and he got his reward.”

Serena’s serves it up

Meanwhile, Serena Williams has said women’s tennis is better than men’s tennis, for one simple reason. “I mean, it’s way cattier,” Williams said, “so it’s way more exciting to watch.”

The match Williams played on Monday at the French Open was hardly filled with intrigue because she was so superior to her opponent. After struggling in two earlier matches that lasted three sets each, the second-seeded Serena reached the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 24 Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada.

“My most focused match so far,” said Williams, who stretched her Grand Slam winning streak to 18 matches.

During her news conference, Williams made the case for which gender makes for the more interesting tennis.

“We’re so passionate about whatever we do,” she said. “Maybe that makes it way more intense. We have so many great personalities right now on the women’s tour.”

She mentioned as one example Jelena Jankovic, the woman Williams beat in the 2008 U.S. Open final. The fifth-seeded Jankovic — always quick with a smile during a match and a quip after one — was upset by 41st-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania 3-6, 6-0, 9-7 later on Monday.

Hard-fought win

Next up for Williams is a match against 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who outlasted 12th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

“I really enjoy playing her. It’s always fun,” Kuznetsova said. “She has great personality. ... We have similar interests. We laugh a lot, you know.” — Agencies

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