Not even the fans sitting in Court Philippe Chatrier could believe what they were seeing Tuesday. Eighth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the last Frenchman standing, thoroughly outclassed Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 in the French Open quarterfinals.
Tsonga, the sixth seed, is the first Frenchman to make the semifinals in five years. If he defeats No. 4 seed David Ferrer, he would become the first Frenchman to reach the final in 25 years.
It was just Tsonga's fourth career win in 13 meetings with Federer, but it's the second time he's knocked him off at a Grand Slam tournament. Tsonga said he and coach Roger Rasheed prepared by watching footage of Rafael Nadal's matches against Federer to identify the ways Nadal has troubled the Swiss over the years.
"I tried to do the same," Tsonga said. "Today it worked."
"I thought he played great today," Federer said. "He was in all areas better than me. That's why the result was pretty clean. You know, no doubt about it. I was impressed by the way he played."
Tsonga played a steady, clean match over one hour and 51 minutes, hitting 26 winners to just 22 unforced errors. Federer, on the other hand, littered the stat sheet with 34 unforced errors to 25 winners, and a surprisingly low 50 percent success rate at the net (15-for-30). By the time the third set came around, Federer was missing overhead smashes repeatedly and struggling in the face of Tsonga's offensive pressure.
"I think I struggled a little bit everywhere," Federer said. "To be honest, personally, I'm pretty sad about the match and the way I played."
Federer was left scratching his head to identify where things all went wrong. He played a five-set match against Gilles Simon (6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3) in the fourth round but said he was physically fine Tuesday.
"I'm disappointed," Federer said. "Perhaps more disappointed than in the past when I was defeated in the past. Maybe I could have played better. Why did I lose? These are the questions you ask yourself. But you have to digest this loss and then get ready for the next match. It's simple."
"[S]ports, it's beautiful because you can always do something," said Tsonga, who showed no signs of wavering as he got closer to the finish line. "Even if you play the best player in the world or anybody, you have a chance. Because the guy in front of you has two legs, two arms, one head. That's it."
Federer will now turn his eyes to Wimbledon, where he's the defending champion and going for his eighth title. But first he will take a few days off and then head to Halle, Germany, for a grass warm-up tournament next week.
Here are some of the best photos from Tsonga's big upset: