Federer sets up Nadal SF after comeback win

Six-time champion Roger Federer battled back from a 0-3 deficit in the third set to beat fourth seed and 2009 runner-up Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 to finish in second position in Group B for a semi-final clash against top seed and 2010 finalist Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

Del Potro broke Federer in the first and fifth games of the first set, as Federer committed seven forehand errors to trail 1-5. Federer staged a rousing comeback, but despite hitting 15 winners and clinching nine of 10 net points won, del Potro saved two break points to seal the 41-minute opener.

Del Potro seized control of the match when Federer hit a backhand into the net at 1-1, 15/40 in the second set. Federer walked to his chair with his head bowed.

It proved to be a temporary blip as Federer broke del Potro to love in the sixth game after a double fault. Without any further chances against serve, a tie-break was inevitable. Federer opened up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break and clinched the 50-minute set with his seventh ace.

With del Potro serving first in the decider, the pressure was on Federer. When he buckled in the second game at 15/40, after he struck his 18th forehand error, del Potro went on to take a 3-0 lead.

"I was probably slightly angry more than thinking it's going to be over soon," said Federer, when asked about how he felt at 0-3 in the third set. "It's one of those moments today, because I kind of fought back the whole match - the first, second set. Here we go again."

But Federer drew on his reserves to fight back to 3-3 for a very tense finale.

At 5-5, 15/40, del Potro mis-timed a forehand to gift Federer the chance to serve for the match. Federer saved a break point in the next game and clinched victory with his 10th ace. The match lasted two hours and 26 minutes.

"I wasn't in many of Juan Martin's service games, so I kind of felt like probably I will get one more chance to break back. It's exactly what happened," said Federer. "Once on even terms, I was able to play a little bit more freely.

"For the first time I was almost feeling like I was kind of in the lead. It was a great finish. I was very happy. To get the victory was a great feeling, so I was very happy."

Federer hit 13 of his 39 winners in the third set, when he lost four of his first service points.

"I think I got two chances to win the match," said del Potro. "I broke his serve in the second set and in the third one. But he played great when I was up, and he deserved to come back in both sets. But at the end, when you have to be focus and find the winners, I made the mistakes and he was there really focused to take the chance. I think that was the key of the match."

Federer improved to a 45-16 match record on the season and has now qualified for the semi-finals at the prestigious event in 11 of the past 12 years (except 2008).  He has a 4-0 mark against Nadal at the season finale, including two wins each at Shanghai and London in 2006 (SF), ’07 (SF), ’10 (Final) and ’11 (RR). Federer has won eight of the nine sets.

"I just have to have the right mindset to give it one last go, maybe play with a little less pressure than I have in previous matches with him," said Federer.

"I just feel like I need to look at it more as being an underdog a little bit because of circumstances, because of my year, because of his year. Maybe that free swinging is what I kind of need to do a little bit more tomorrow."

Federer's schedule has been a heavy one with a final appearance in Basel, then a semi-final run in Paris before arriving in London for his 12th consecutive appearance at the ATP's annual season-ender.

Despite feeling the strain, Federer said he will be ready to fight tooth and nail with Nadal, who had Saturday off.

"I don't get a day off, I've got to back it up and be ready to go again tomorrow."

"I see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's two more matches and that's it," said Federer, who is looking for a seventh title at the tournament and third since it moved to London in 2009.

"We know each other that well. He's going to do exactly what he needs to do, I'm going to try to do what I need to do. Hopefully it's going to match up good for me.

"If not, he deserves it. He's had a wonderful season. We'll see how it goes," added the ever-popular Swiss.

An added bonus for Federer is that fellow Swiss and close friend Stanislas Wawrinka is also through to the semi-finals in his first appearance at the tournament.

Wawrinka faces defending champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday's second semi-final with the intriguing possibility of an all-Swiss final still a possibility.

"I don't know if I'm more excited that I won or we're both in the semis, to be honest," added Federer, who won Olympic doubles gold with Wawrinka in 2008. "I'm very happy for Stan.

"I was hoping to be there, too, make both of us get to the semis. Here we are playing the best two players of the season. I think it's incredibly interesting for the two of us, for Swiss tennis, for the Swiss media.

"I think we're gonna speak to each other a little bit later and I'll tell him a few things that I know and he'll hopefully tell me a few things he knows this week about the players we're playing."

The 32-year-old Swiss native is the oldest to reach the semi-finals in the season finale since Andre Agassi (33) in 2003. Agassi lost to Federer in the final.

This is also the second time the Big 3 of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have reached the semi-finals together at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In 2010, Federer defeated Djokovic and Nadal beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Federer defeated Nadal in the final.

Date: 9th November 2013, Source: ATP and Reuters


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