Paris, 28 May 2011 | AFP

Roger Federer cruised into the French Open last 16 on Friday but the heavyweight clash between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro will finish on Saturday, thrillingly poised at a set apiece.

Federer, the 2009 champion and playing in his 46th consecutive grand slam tournament, disposed of Serbian 29th seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-1 6-4 6-3.

The third seed will face close friend, and Swiss compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.

Wawrinka, the 14th seed, recovered from two sets to love down, and was just two points from defeat in a third set-tiebreak, before beating 17th-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-3.

That four-hour epic forced the clash between second seed Djokovic and former US Open champion Del Potro onto Suzanne Lenglen court, but the eagerly-awaited tie will finish Saturday because of its late evening start.

Djokovic claimed the first set 6-3 before the big Argentine snatched the second 6-3 after 96 minutes of fierce big-hitting.

However, organisers were under fire for switching the match from the main Philippe Chatrier court, a decision greeted by howls of derision from ticket-holders who then tried to get onto Suzanne Lenglen.

Djokovic, on a 41-match winning streak, complained about the noise outside as fans screamed to be allowed into the arena.

Federer said he was delighted to have his day’s work wrapped up in 90 minutes.

“They were tricky conditions, the wind was moving the clouds around, there was a chance of rain so it was good not to spend too much time on court,” said Federer.

“I served well to keep me out of trouble and from the baseline I was mixing it up well. It was good to have another early finish which is nice.”

Wawrinka, who won Beijing Olympic doubles gold with Federer, was delighted by his fifth career comeback from two sets to love down.

“It’s a great victory. To win after being two sets to zero down against a French player, on centre court, is fantastic,” he said.

“He started very physically, but the turning point was the mini-break I got in the tiebrak. He then started taking the ball a little late and that allowed me to impose my shots.

“Against Roger, I will have to be on the ‘max’, but my game is in place.”

Dangerous seventh seed David Ferrer of Spain made the last 16 seeing off Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-1 6-1 6-3.

Ferrer, a quarterfinalist in 2005 and 2008, will face French ninth seed Gael Monfils, who put out Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis 6-3 6-4 7-5, for a place in the quarterfinals.

Unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini reached the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time by beating Spanish 30th seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-1.

Fognini will face Spanish veteran Albert Montanes, who ousted Russian 12th seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-1 7-6(7) 6-1 to reach the fourth round for the first time.

France’s 13th seed Richard Gasquet will also be a last 16 newboy after defeating Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci 6-2 6-3 3-6 6-3 and he will be the next opponent of either Djokovic or Del Potro.