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 of France, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Federer was eliminated before the semifinals for the second time in his past three major events, but only the fifth time in the past nine years at a Grand Slam tournament. Tsonga was responsible for two of the losses -- he also beat Federer in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011.
Tsonga was runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Australian Open, his best Grand Slam result. He 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.
Federer took a 4-2 lead but played like a mere mortal after that. He blew three overheads, missed 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 at 3-all, 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.
Tsonga waved in apology, then quickly won the final two games. When he closed out the victory, Federer greeted him with a gracious smile and two congratulatory pats on the stomach.
A jubilant Tsonga then went spinning across the court, waving his arms as the partisan center court crowd roared.
Tsonga's ranked No. 8. The last time Federer lost to a player ranked so low in a major tournament was at Wimbledon two years ago, when the No. 19-ranked Tsonga overcame a two-set deficit to beat him.
The French Open has always been the most difficult major event for Federer. He won his lone Roland Garros title in 2009 to complete a career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles.
Now 31, he has yet to win any tournament in 2013, his longest drought to start a year since 2000.Also on Tuesday, Serena Williams came from behind in the third set Tuesday 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 last 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.
Against Kuznetsova, Williams overcame an inconsistent serve, erratic groundstrokes and a 2-love deficit in the final set, winning five consecutive games and then closing out the victory with a forehand winner and a scream.
"Yes!" she hollered.
It was the first real test of the tournament for Williams, who lost 10 games after losing a total of 10 games in her four earlier matches. She extended her career-best winning streak to 29 consecutive matches.
In a post-match on-court interview, Williams seemed spent.
"I'm very happy to have won this quarterfinal, because the whole night I was afraid of my quarterfinal match," she told the crowd in French. "It was a very tough match today, but it's good for me because, I don't know, but it's very good. I am exhausted."
Williams is the first American woman to reach the French Open semifinals since Jennifer Capriati in 2004. Her opponent Thursday will be 2012 runner-up Sara Errani, who advanced by beating No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (6).
Williams is 5-0 against Errani.
In sunny, 65-degree weather on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Williams struggled with her first serve, hit five double-faults and was broken four times. She was indecisive with her shot selection and hesitant with her footwork, even as she built a lead in the first set, and for a long stretch she had trouble keeping the ball in the court.
Williams laughed at herself, screamed at herself, violently shook her racket and cocked it over her head, threatening to fling it before she changed her mind. Finally she turned the tide.
The pivotal game came with Kuznetsova leading 2-love in the final set, when Williams held. She overcame three break points in the 16-point game, finally closing it out with a forehand winner as Kuznetsova tumbled to the clay in vain pursuit.
Williams overcame yet another break point to hold and take the lead for good at 3-2. When she smacked a forehand winner to break again, she punctuated the shot with a pirouette and an upper cut, and she was soon accepting congratulations from Kuznetsova at the net.
With the victory, Williams avenged a loss in the 2009 quarterfinals to the Russian, who went on to win the tournament that year.
Since losing in the first round a year ago at Roland Garros, Williams is 72-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the US Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships. She's 21-0 this year on clay.