France has waited 30 years for a home-grown male champion at Roland Garros, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is within two victories of delivering the coup de grace after crushing Roger Federer in the quarter-finals here last night.
The joy around Philippe Chatrier Court at the 28-year-old Frenchman's 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 victory contrasted with the misery of Federer, who suffered the sort of defeat that is becoming all too familiar for him in the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
Thirty years after Yannick Noah became the last home player to win the French Open and 25 years after Henri Leconte was the last to finish runner-up, Tsonga has an outstanding opportunity at least to reach Sunday's final.
His semi-final opponent on Friday will be David Ferrer, who beat Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. Ferrer has won two of his three meetings with Tsonga, while neither man has dropped a set in five matches here this year.
With Federer out and Andy Murray having failed to make the start line because of injury, Roland Garros 2013 will be the first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2010 which will feature at least one finalist from outside the game's big four. In today's quarter-finals in the other half of the draw Rafael Nadal meets Stanislas Wawrinka while Novak Djokovic takes on Tommy Haas. Meanwhile, Federer's failure to reach the semi-finals here for only the second time in nine years ensures that Murray will stay at No 2 in the world rankings at the end of the tournament.
"I'm pretty sad about the match and the way I played," a subdued Federer said afterwards.
"In all areas he was better than me today."
He added: "This is obviously a crushing loss and I'm disappointed about it, but now I look forward to other things. I love the grass-court season, especially as it's been 10 years since my first Wimbledon victory."
Tsonga, who at Wimbledon two years ago became the first player to beat Federer from two-sets down in a Grand Slam match, said victory was reward for all the hard work he had put in recently. Asked what words had been exchanged at the net at the finish, Tonsga said with a smile: "I thanked him for letting me win this time because in the past it was not always this way."
Serena Williams extended her winning run to 29 matches when she secured a place in the semi-finals by beating Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion here, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Williams, who had dropped only 10 games in her four previous matches, lost her way in the second set and trailed 2-0 in the third before winning five games in a row to restore order.
Williams now faces Sara Errani, the world No 5, in tomorrow's semi-finals. The Italian, a surprise finalist here last year, recorded the first win of her career against a top -five opponent when she beat Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 4, 6-4, 7-6.