PARIS, May 31 – Roger Federer needed four sets to reach the last 16 at the French Open on Saturday, but in the biggest upset of the tournament to date fourth seed Novak Djokovic crashed out.The Swiss second seed, who came through against home favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, was not at his best but once again he managed to dig himself out of trouble when he needed to.
Djokovic was totally out of sorts falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in a Court One shocker.
The French started the day with five players in the bottom half of the draw and they ended it with just two, but in best friends Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga they have the players many here believe could end the long, painfull wait for another home winner of the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Monfils had too much firepower for Jurgen Melzer of Austria winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, while Tsonga blasted his way past Belgium’s Christophe Rochus 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Andy Roddick and German veteran Tommy Haas also made it through, both against French opponents, while top South American hope Juan Martin del Potro scored a comfortable 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win over Igor Andreev of Russia.
Federer, who struggled at times in his second round tie against Jose Acasuso of Argentina, again looked below par against the dangerous Mathieu, who pushed Rafael Nadal to the limit here in 2006.
But after dropping the first set, he broke serve early in the second and used that as a platform to take control of the match.
Mathieu faded badly in the middle of the contest but came battling back in the fourth set which Federer edged after breaking in the seventh game with a magnificent backhand passing shot from out wide.
"It was tough conditions and hard to see the ball with the sun going down and that’s why I think the rallies were short," he said.
"But once the (stadium) shadow came in the level of play picked up. The end was a good one and I was happy with the way I played towards the end."
Djokovic grabbed the first break of his match against Kohlschreiber in the fourth game but from 4-1 up the wheels came off for the 2008 Australian Open champion as Kohlschreiber ran off five games in a row to go a set up.
It was much the same story in the second set as Djokovic won the first game but then allowed the German to dominate proceedings taking another five games in a row.
Two sets up and there was no way back for a flat-looking Djokovic who described his effort as "just a bad day at the office."
"I was disappointed with the way I was performing. I couldn’t find the rhythm throughout the whole match," he said. "I was trying to find the comfort zone but my legs were really stuck."
"He played tactically really smart and I had no solutions.
Kohlschreiber will play Tommy Robredo for a place in the quarter-finals after the Spaniard’s 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 over Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina
The mission for Monfils and Tsonga is to finally provide another home win for France, 26 years after dreadlocked Yannick Noah became a national hero with his straight sets triumph over Mats Wilander in 1983.
Monfils, who was doubtful for the tournament up to the last moment due to chronic knee inflamation, was first to go through outplaying Melzer for the second straight year here, but needing one set less.
The 11th seed will next go up against Roddick who reached the last 16 at Roland Garros for the first time in his career with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Marc Gicquel of France.
"I played a great match and didn’t feel the knee much," said 22-year-old Monfils, a former world junior No.1.
"I feel better and better. I believe in myself and we will see how it goes against Roddick."
The American, who defeated Marc Gicquel 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, enjoyed a stunning turnaround in his fortunes on clay having gone out in the first round here in 2006 and 2007 before missing last year’s tournament with a shoulder injury.
"It was a goal of mine to get to the second week of this tournament, but it’s not over yet. I would like to keep going.
"I don’t even have anything else to do next week so I would like to stick around. I got a puncher’s chance in any match I play."
Tsonga broke Rochus in the first game of their tie and from then on it was one-way traffic as the big Frenchman bludgeoned the little Belgian at will with his huge serve and heavy forehand.
The 24-year-old ninth seed concluded in style on his own serve with two aces and two huge forehands followed by his trademark thumbs up celebration to please the fans.
"I was right into this match and it was a clear win. I played great and didn’t really have to force it," Tsonga said.
"Gael is through as well so that gives us all the more chances of getting a French player onto the top of the podium."