Federer sets up Novak date

Tennis French Open: Defending champ Schiavone oustlasts Pavlyuchenkova, to meet Bartoli in semis

Women's holder Francesca Schiavone and men's hopeful Andy Murray clawed their way back from the brink to progress with gritty performances.

Both were two points away from defeat but Schiavone reached the semifinals with a 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and British fourth seed Murray floored Serbian Viktor Troicki 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to the last eight against Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela.

Federer has not dropped a set at Roland Garros so far this year and although there were a few chinks in his armour, he was ruthless when break points arose and Court Philippe Chatrier had to applaud the 2009 winner rather than Frenchman Monfils.

The ninth seed broke first when Federer double faulted only for the world number three to storm back amid blustery conditions and secure the set when Monfils sent a wild forehand wide.

They exchanged breaks again early in the second but Monfils, who smashed his racket into the ground, then double faulted to gift Federer the set before the 16-times grand slam champion easily wrapped up victory in the tiebreak.

Schiavone struggled to cope with windy conditions on court Philippe Chatrier as Moscow-based Pavlyuchenkova wore long sleeves and hit long balls to unsettle the Italian fifth seed, who next faces Russian former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova or local favourite Marion Bartoli.

It worked perfectly for Pavlyuchenkova, who knocked out world number three Vera Zvonareva in the previous round, and she raced into a 6-1, 4-2 lead.  But with her back to the wall at 2-4, 0-40 down in the second set, Schiavone bounced back, grunting as her game gradually fell into place and her opponent's started to unravel as she won six games in a row.

Pavlyuchenkova broke back for 5-5, only for Schiavone to steal her serve again and end the contest with a backhand winner.

"I did not play good, I hope I will play better in the semifinal because this crowd deserve to see good tennis," Schiavone, who put some clay on her face after the match point, told a courtside interviewer.

Schiavone will now face Marion Bartoli. Bartoli became the first Frenchwoman to reach the semifinals since 2005 after she beat former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 6-4.

The 11th-seeded Bartoli, whose best result at a grand slam was reaching the Wimbledon final in 2007, won the opening set tiebreak 7-4 after both players conceded three breaks each. Bartoli then outraced the 13th-seeded Kuznetsova in the second set to seal the win when her opponent returned wide after one hour 53 minutes. Mary Pierce was the last Frenchwoman to reach the last four at Roland Garros.

Murray, who twisted his ankle in the previous round, is not the kind to give up easily despite his seemingly nonchalant attitude, as he showed in a thrilling match against Troicki.  The Briton, yet to win a grand slam title, fell 5-0 behind on Monday in just 18 minutes as he looked in pain and on the brink of pulling out before fighting back to level at two sets all.

The match resumed on Tuesday with an unusual incident.  A ball boy inexplicably ran on to the court in front of Troicki during a rally as the Serb moved to the net for a smash in the sixth game.

Because of "movement during the exchange", umpire Pascal Maria had the point replayed as Troicki boiled over, but the Serb broke for 4-2.  He came within two points of victory when he led 5-3, 30-0 on his serve but made a string of unforced errors to let Murray back into the contest.

The 24-year-old Scot wasted three match points but a gravity-defying crosscourt backhand passing winner sent him through after almost four hours, with a possible semifinal clash against world number one Rafael Nadal or Swede Robin Soderling looming.

Results (prefix denotes seeding): Men’s singles, quarterfinals: 3-Roger Federer (Sui) bt 9-Gael Monfils (Fra) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). Fourth round: 4-Andy Murray (GBR) bt 15-Viktor Troicki (Ser) 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

Womens’ singles: Quarterfinals: 11-Marion Bartoli (Fra) bt 13-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; 5-Francesca Schiavone (Ita) bt 14-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  (Rus) 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.

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