By EDDIE PELLS, Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — Four times, the stands at Roland Garros were ready to erupt, a beloved Frenchman standing one point from beating the world's top player and ending his quest for history.
Four times, Novak Djokovic had an answer for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
And so, instead of Tsonga Time at the French Open, Djokovic is still on the road to the "Novak Slam."
Top-seeded Djokovic overcame four match points, to say nothing of the wildly partisan crowd, for a 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1 victory over fifth-seeded Tsonga on Tuesday that ended near twilight in front of drizzle-soaked stands that had quickly emptied after the match points vanished and the final set had become academic.
"It was incredible from the start," Djokovic said. "I played really well for a set and a break up. The crowd supported Jo. He started playing really well. It was really difficult to stay focused but I was believing maybe I could have my chances. He was playing really aggressive. If he would have won today, he would have been a well-deserved winner."
Instead, Djokovic got the "W' — his 26th straight in the majors.
After he converted his first match point — a backhand winner down the line — Djokovic leaned back and pumped his fists over and over. Tsonga, who had dreams of becoming the first Frenchman to win his country's Grand Slam since Yannick Noah in 1983, sat with his head buried in a towel, while the few fans left chanted his name.
It was the end to a remarkable day of tennis that also included third-seeded Roger Federer's comeback from two sets down for a 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 over No. 9 seed Juan Martin del Potro. It was Federer's seventh career rally from down two sets to love. After both the winners rest their legs, they'll meet with a spot in the final on the line.
Federer will be trying to set the stage for his 17th Grand Slam tournament title, but his first since the 2010 Australian Open.
Djokovic will try to set up a chance to join Rod Laver and Don Budge as the only men to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
Djokovic's last Grand Slam loss came on the same court last year to Federer, who ended the Serb's 43-match winning streak — in both majors and nonmajors — in the French Open semifinals.
"The good thing is that we both have two days off now to rest," Djokovic said. "And I hope to have another great match like we did in 2011. It's always a big challenge to play Roger. He's a fantastic player, a big champion."
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