PARIS — When Roger Federer finally emerged from that red-clay hole he dug Monday, he celebrated with a leap that sent him into the French Open quarter-finals and joined the roaring crowd with a scream of his own.
Less than 24 hours after Rafael Nadal was eliminated, Federer averted another stunner by beating German Tommy Haas 6-7 (4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
The French Open is the only Grand Slam event Federer has yet to win. He has been beaten by Nadal at Roland Garros four years in a row, the past three times in the final. And with the path to the title cleared of his No. 1-ranked nemesis, No. 2 Federer barely avoided a stumble.
“It’s maybe a good sign,” Federer said.
Meanwhile, Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak’s dream run ended Monday with a 6-1, 6-2 loss to second-seeded American Serena Williams.
Playing on the tournament’s showcase stadium, against one of the biggest names in women’s tennis, the 21-year-old from Blainville, Que., admitted her nerves may have got the best of her.
“You really want to win badly and there’s so many things going on,” said Wozniak. “It was my first time on Philippe Chatrier court. Emotions get involved and you just get tight and you can’t play really your game, so it’s tough.”
In other action, No. 16-seeded Tommy Robredo beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
The erratic form that has plagued Federer in the past year was again a problem for portions of the first three sets. But with the centre-court crowd firmly in his corner, Federer mounted one of the biggest comebacks of his career. He won nine consecutive games to even the match, then swept the final five games.
When he smacked a service winner on match point, the stoic Swiss’ demonstrative celebration reflected what’s at stake. For the fourth year in a row, Federer is trying to become only the sixth man to win all four major championships.
“If he wins here, he’s probably the greatest ever,” Haas said.
Federer’s total of 13 Grand Slam titles is one shy of Pete Sampras’ record, and he’s well aware of the opportunity created by Nadal’s departure.
“It caused a bit of a shock in the locker room,” Federer said. “All the players are a bit relieved. Everybody suddenly sees that things are much more open.”
As was the case because of Nadal’s loss Sunday to Robin Soderling, other results became a footnote.
Somehow Federer managed to lose the opening set despite winning every service point — 24 in a row — until the tiebreaker. The first break of the match put him ahead 2-1 in the second set, but he gave it back, then hit several nervous points serving at 5-6 to lose that game.
Haas led 4-3 in the pivotal third set and was a point from serving for the match, but Federer hit a forehand winner to launch his comeback.
“Once I hit that forehand to save a break point, I felt that it could be the turning point of the match,” Federer said. “I was really very relieved.”
At 4-all, Haas had a 40-15 lead in the next game but made four consecutive unforced errors, including a double-fault, to drop serve for the second time. From there the match slipped away from the 31-year-old German, who lost to Federer for the eighth time in a row.
“When you’re that close to winning, it hurts,” Haas said. “I gave it all that I had out there today, and I came up short.”
Federer’s victory was the fifth of his career after trailing by two sets. The five-set match was his first at Roland Garros since 2001, and he improved to 14-12 in five-set matches.