PARIS — By Roger Federer's standards, defeat came early in the French Open. And it came quickly.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion lost Tuesday in the quarterfinals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Federer was eliminated before the semifinals for the second time in past three Grand Slams, but only the fifth time in the past nine years at a major. Tsonga was responsible for two of the losses — he also beat Federer in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011.
"I'm pretty sad about the match and the way I played," Federer said. "He was in all areas better than me today. That's why the result was pretty clean."
Serena Williams narrowly averted Federer's fate. She came from behind in the third set and advanced to the French Open semifinals for the first time since 2003 when she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Williams had been beaten the past four times she reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals, most recently in 2010. The 15-time Grand Slam champion, who is ranked No. 1, won her only French Open title in 2002.
"I just got tired of losing in the quarters," she said. "I was so determined to get through that, and I really, really, really, really wanted it more than I think anyone. So I think that kind of helped."
Tsonga earned his first berth in the Roland Garros semifinals and is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the tournament since Yannick Noah in 1983.
"I can't have better a dream," Tsonga told the center court crowd. "So far I play very well. I played against a champion today, a guy who has won everything. Today it's my turn."
Friday he'll play No. 4-seeded David Ferrer, who beat Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.
Tsonga was runnerup to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Australian Open, his best Grand Slam result. Ranked No. 8, he dominated Federer with his blend of power and athleticism.
Federer took a 4-2 lead but played like a mere mortal after that as the match rapidly slipped away. He blew three overheads, missed several easy volleys, hit no aces, dropped serve six times and took a shot to the body on the point that put Tsonga ahead to stay in the final set.
Facing a break point, Federer sliced a drop shot, and Tsonga raced forward to scoop it up. He whacked a backhand that clipped the net cord and then drilled Federer under his right arm.
Williams extended her career-best winning streak to 29 consecutive matches.
Kuznetsova said she strained an abdominal muscle early in the tournament, which hampered her serve, but her aggressive returns kept pressure on Williams.
"I did push her to the limit I think today, even without my serve," Kuznetsova said. "I was serving like, I don't know, a grandmother."
Williams is the first American woman to reach the French Open semifinals since Jennifer Capriati in 2004.
. KEY MATCHES
Men: Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Tommy Haas (12); Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (9)
Women: Maria Sharapova (2) vs. Jelena Jankovic (18); Victoria Azarenka (3) vs. Maria Kirilenko (12)
TV: 8 a.m., ESPN2; 1 p.m., Tennis