Federer stretched but not enough

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, who advanced earlier Wednesday with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jeremy Chardy, for a place in the final as he continues his bid for a fifth title at Melbourne Park.

"I'm young, you know, I'll recover quick compared to the seniors, of course," Federer joked.

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.

... contd.

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