Federer roars back from two sets down & saves 2 M.P to defeat Monfils

Storming back from two sets down for the ninth time in his storied career, stubbornly fighting off two match points in the fourth set, Roger Federer turned back Gael Monfils, the No. 20 seed, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, to reach the semifinals of the US Open for the ninth time in a two hours and 53 minutes battle.

“When I was down two match points, that’s when I wasn’t feeling so great anymore,” said Federer. “I thought: ‘This is it. This is the last point, man. Just go down fighting, don’t miss an easy shot and let him have it.

“But I served well and stayed in the match and somehow turned it around. I felt great in the fifth, though. I was really starting to play better and better as the match went on, and that’s a great feeling.”

Monfils played spirited and focused tennis for four sets, as he had all tournament in his unlikely run to the quarters, during which he won 14 straight sets. Yet surrendering those two match points left the Frenchman deflated in the final set, unable to put the disappointment behind him.

Federer’s exuberant comeback electrified the capacity night crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was Federer’s 26th win under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with his only loss coming two years ago in the same round to Tomas Berdych, who was eliminated earlier in the afternoon by Federer's next opponent, No. 14 Marin Cilic.

“It was unbelievable,” Federer said of the crowd support. “It think it was awesome for both guys. Gael played such incredible tennis that the crowd has to get into it.”

Monfils had two opportunities to seize the match, and advance to the semifinal for a first time, with Federer serving at 4-5 in the fourth set. But Federer saved both. The Swiss struck a confident forehand down the line to erase the deficit and then smacked a service winner down the “T,” sliding away from Monfils, to notch the set at 5-all.

Monfils then donated his next service game to Federer with consecutive double faults. The Swiss, handed a lifeline, confidently served out the game to take the match to a deciding fifth set.

Monfils promptly lost his composure in the final set. The Frenchman was immediately broken, and Federer reeled off five straight games. The five-time US Open champion ran away with the final set behind a litany errors off the Frenchman’s racquet, including one throwaway between-the-legs shot.

For two sets, an edgy Federer was wholly flummoxed by the unpredictable game of Monfils, who mixed things up with soft slices, drop shots and sudden power. Federer didn’t appear to have a game plan to deal with either Monfils or the windy conditions inside Ashe.

Yet the No. 2 seed roared back in the third set, finally finding his range. In a dramatic turnaround from an error-plagued beginning, Federer struck 12 winners and committed just a single unforced error in the set.

The fifth and final set was a disappointing finish to a quarterfinal matchup that will likely be remembered as one of the best matches of the 2014 Open. A resurgent, ageless Federer and a focused Monfils - whom John McEnroe has called “probably one of the greatest athletes ever to play our sport” - was an enticing prospect.

And the two players’ skill sets - Federer’s precise shotmaking and Monfils’s raw, entertaining gifts – were made for the primetime lights of New York.

When asked what went through him mind on the two match points, Monfils said, “That's why he's Roger Federer..., He start with chipping very low. I think I handled it good.

“So then he stick with longer points. It was 50-50, and then he try to come to the net very often. It was a bit better for him. Then suddenly he start to mix everything. You know, that's why he's the greatest player, because he can do everything.

“I was saying to myself, ‘Keep it simple and try to make him play them.’ Because I knew that he would force it, he would put the first ball in and then come to the net very quick. I needed to relax and just lean a bit more on my forehand return and try to make it.”

Federer, who won 53 of 74 points at the net, improved to an 8-2 record against Monfils, including a three-sets victory last month at the Western & Southern Open. He leads his next opponent, Cilic, 5-0 in their ATP Head to Head series.

“I’m looking forward to playing Marin,” he said. “He’s a great guy. We had a tough, tough match in Toronto. I think I needed nine match points to close him out and beat him at midnight, 6-4 in the third, so we know what to expect.”

Federer last rallied from a two-sets deficit in 2012 at Wimbledon, where he overcame Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the third round en route to his seventh title at the All England Club.

He is looking to win his 18th Grand Slam title this week, and could move to No. 1 in the ATP Race To London should he triumph and Kei Nishikori beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Monfils had been attempting to reach the US Open semi-finals for a first time. He had advanced to his lone Grand Slam semi-final in 2008 at Roland Garros.

Federer returns to the US Open semifinals for the first time since 2011.

Date: 5th September 2014, Source: US Open


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