By Roger Federer's standards, defeat came early in the French Open. And it came quickly.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion lost Tuesday in the quarterfinals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Federer was eliminated before the semifinals for the second time in his past three major events, but only the fifth time in the past nine years at a Grand Slam tournament. Tsonga was responsible for two of the losses - he also beat Federer in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011.
Tsonga was runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Australian Open, his best Grand Slam result. He earned his first berth in the Roland Garros semifinals and is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the tournament since Yannick Noah in 1983.
He's the first Frenchman to reach the semifinals since Gael Monfils in 2008. His opponent Friday will be No. 4-seeded David Ferrer, who beat fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.
Federer took a 4-2 lead but played like a mere mortal after that. He blew three overheads, missed easy volleys, hit no aces, dropped serve six times and took a shot to the body on the point that put Tsonga ahead to stay in the final set.
Facing a break point at 3-all, Federer sliced a drop shot, and Tsonga raced forward to scoop it up. He whacked a backhand that clipped the net cord and then drilled Federer under his right arm.
Tsonga waved in apology, then quickly won the final two games. When he closed out the victory, Federer greeted him with a gracious smile and two congratulatory pats on the stomach.
A jubilant Tsonga then went spinning across the court, waving his arms as the partisan center court crowd roared.
Tsonga's ranked No. 8. The last time Federer lost to a player ranked so low in a major tournament was at Wimbledon two years ago, when the No. 19-ranked Tsonga overcame a two-set deficit to beat him.
The French Open has always been the most difficult major event for Federer. He won his lone Roland Garros title in 2009 to complete a career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles.
Now 31, he has yet to win any tournament in 2013, his longest drought to start a year since 2000.