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French Open 2014: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic survive tough tests to reach last 16

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic stay on course at the French Open by winning their 3rd round matches against Dmitry Tursunov and Marin Cilic respectively.

Roger Federer in action against Dmitry Tursunov

After a brief spell of sunshine around the Roland Garros this morning, the weather started to turn grey again. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were both in battle – on Phillippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen respectively – and their opponents had started to pose some tricky questions. But despite losing a set each and being pushed hard, both men found the answers needed to overcome the hurdle and advance to the round of 16. Djokovic defeated Marin Cilic, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4 a little later than Federer had dealt with Dmitry Tursunov 7-5, 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4.

Djokovic had beaten Federer in taking a two-set lead, quickly gaining the upper hand on a flustered Cilic. But he was far from his best; it was just that he was doing what was needed to stay ahead of an erratic Cilic.

Meanwhile, having edged a very tight first set, that only got resolved with a break in the 12th game, Federer was fighting through another tight set. There wasn’t an inch being given at either end and Tursunov was keeping Federer on edge with his relentlessness.

Federer sought to wrest control by jumping to a 4-1 lead in the second set breaker. But the Russian, who shared practice courts in the morning with Federer, seemed to pick up on something in the Swiss man’s repertoire. He won five of the next six points to gain his first set point at 6-5.

Federer saved it quickly but could not make much of his own set point which he enjoyed at 7-6. The emboldened Tursunov won three points on the run to finally put the set to rest by winning the breaker 9-7. The players had already spent nearly two hours on court, with only a set each to show for it.

Around the same time, Cilic started to tighten his game and stay neck and neck with Djokovic. After an exchange of breaks midway through the third, Cilic stepped up his game to run up a 5-1 advantage in the breaker. It was too big a gap even for Djokovic, as he succumbed 2-7 to breathe new life into the Croat.

On Chatrier though, it was Federer who won the third set, taking it 6-2 to assert his superiority over the Russian. Federer has never lost to Tursunov and he wasn’t about to begin here at the French Open. The Swiss broke in the seventh game of the fourth set to gain the decisive edge. He served out in the 10th game to close out the match in 3 hours and six minutes.

Still labouring for victory, Djokovic was still on court with the fourth set on serve at 5-4. But serving to stay in the match, Cilic was let down by his biggest weapon. The Croat threw in a double fault to surrender the match after 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Novak Djokovic acknowledging the crowd on Suzanne Lenglen

Sterner battles lay ahead, especially for Federer. The 2009 champion takes on an ever confident Ernests Gulbis who coasted into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Radek Stepanek. The two haven’t met since doing so thrice in 2010, but each of those matches went into the third set.

This will be their fourth meeting, the first in a Grand Slam event. Federer beat Gulbis in Doha but lost in Rome, before making it 2-1 with a victory in Madrid. It promises to be an intriguing battle when they fight for the right to a spot in the quarterfinals.

Djokovic has to deal with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who could pose a serious threat to the Serbian in the next round. It is all getting really exciting at this eventful French Open.

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