Federer makes heavy weather

The world No 2 comes back from the brink of defeat to beat Tommy Hass to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open.

Roger Federer plays a shot during his remarkable come back at the Frenh Open.
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Roger Federer has during his magnificent career turned in some lamentable performances on his least favourite surface of clay but few have been as poor as in the first half of yesterday's tense French Open fourth round clash which he somehow turned his way. Fortunately for Federer, in his quest to add the Roland Garros crown to the other 13 grand slam titles he has amassed on his world travels, his opponent, the unseeded Tommy Haas, failed to administer the killer blow when the Swiss was on the ropes and the Paris dream is remarkably still alive. Perhaps Federer was still suffering from the shock that has reverberated around the tennis world following the defeat of Rafael Nadal, his nemesis on the red dust, because the former world No 1 looked totally lost for what was a painful three sets against Haas. Having unexpectedly had the door to an elusive career grand slam opened wide for him by Sweden's Robin Soderling's outstanding victory over Nadal, Federer almost allowed that door to be slammed in his face by a combination of ineptitude and nervousness. Few of the spectators watching around the Philippe Chatrier court would have given little more than a prayer for Federer's survival chances after watching him lose the first two sets and be within a point of being a service break down in the crucial third set. That was when the renowned fragility of the Haas temperament resurfaced. In a flash the captivating match had changed direction. Federer saved the break point against him with a sparkling forehand winner, broke Haas in the next game and then repeated the break to snatch the set. Haas then capitulated in the fourth before rushing to the dressing room to try to fathom out what had happened before going into a deciding set which he seemed bound to lose. Sure enough, Federer held himself together when it mattered and completed his 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 6-2 passage in 3hr 7min. Snatching such a dramatic victory earns Federer a quarter-final against Andy Roddick or Gael Monfils and the former No 1 was relieved to be able to fight another day. "Tommy played a great match and I struggled to get into the encounter," Federer admitted. "But when I hit that forehand to save a break point at 3-4 in the third, I had the feeling it could be a turning point in the match. After that, the atmosphere was great." ATP Tour statisticians revel in pointing out that the last man to achieve the career Grand Slam was Andre Agassi, who won it on his 11th appearance at Roland Garros in 1999, when he fought back from two sets down against Andrei Medvedev in the final. This is Federer's 11th French Open. Haas's despair preceded the elimination of the second German in action yesterday as Philippe Kohlschreiber failed to capitalise on his excellent conquest of world No 4 Novak Djokovic by perishing at the hands of Spain's Tommy Robredo. The 16th-seeded Robredo qualified for his fourth Roland Garros quarter-final - he is yet to win one - by grinding out a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 passage and will face either the fifth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro or the home favourite Jo Wilfried Tsonga. wjohnson@thenational.ae