Federer Fends Off Double-Match Point to Oust Monfils in Five Sets in Thrilling U.S. Open Quarterfinal | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / February 27.
  • Federer Fends Off Double-Match Point to Oust Monfils in Five Sets in Thrilling U.S. Open Quarterfinal

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    Fed winsNEW YORK — Roger Federer was staring at double-match point in the fourth set against a red-hot Gael Monfils in the U.S. Open quarterfinals and stood on the brink of being ousted from the tournament he has won five times.

    The lubricated Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was in full support of Federer’s potential comeback against the Frenchman after he had dropped the first two sets, but here he stood, on the edge of defeat at the hands of a man John McEnroe called “probably the greatest athlete in the history of our sport.”

    But Federer dug deep into his steely reserves and hit a swinging forehand volley to save one match point on his serve and then hit a forehand winner from the baseline on the second.

    Federer held serve and the match turned for good when Monfils double-faulted twice at 5-all, deuce, giving Federer the all important break in a match he went on to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in 3 hours, 20 minutes.

    Monfils, who played brilliantly in taking the first two sets despite a twisted right ankle early in the second set, appeared to go on a mental walkabout in the fifth set after blowing the two match points.

    It was the ninth comeback from two sets down by the 33-year-old Federer and kept him alive for his 18th Grand Slam championship and sixth U.S. Open title.

    “When I was down two match points, that’s when I wasn’t feeling so great anymore,” Federer, who improved to 28-1 in night matches at the Open, said on-court. “I thought this is it, this is the last point, man. Just go down fighting, don’t miss an easy point and let him have it. I served well in the match and somehow turned it around. I felt great in the fifth and really started to turn it around. It was a great feeling.”

    He later added, “I’m not sure if I’ve ever saved match point before in a Slam.”

    Said Monfils of the match points: “He just played two good points and well done.”

    Instead of going home early, Federer will meet No. 14 Marin Cilic in Saturday’s semifinals after the Croatian knocked out No. 6 Tomas Berdych, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 earlier Thursday. No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces No. 10 Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal.

    “Marin’s played some great tennis here in New York over the years,” Federer said. “He’s really improved this year working with Goran [Ivanisevic], who I played against….I’m looking forward to playing Marin, he’s a great guy..I’m looking forward to the match.”

    Federer improved to 8-2 against Monfils by playing the attacking style that has helped him win 14 of his last 15 matches on hardcourts this summer.

    He won 53-of-74 net approaches, and 57-of-137 baseline points, meaning he won nearly as many points at the net as he did at the baseline.

    Monfils, by comparison, won 17-of-23 net approaches and 84-of-188 from the back.

    Monfils played brilliantly through the first two sets, hitting 11 more winners than unforced errors, exemplary of the consistent, no-nonsense tennis he had played here without losing a set in his first four matches.

    Federer — and the crowd — seemed stunned at how well Monfils was playing and how he put Federer back on his heels. Federer especially struggled on the return of serve.

    “I still thought the finish line was far from over,” Federer said. “I knew I could play better tennis.”

    After rooting for the underdog Monfils through the first two sets, the capacity crowd turned its passion behind Federer beginning in the third, hoping for more tennis.

    They immediately got their wish as Federer broke Monfils in the first game of the third and breathed life back into the match by forcing a fourth set.

    “It was unbelievable, it was incredible,” Federer said of the crowd support. “I think it was awesome for both guys. Gael put up such a great fight and plays such incredible tennis that the crowd has to get into it, me if you like. It helped me to get it done for sure.”

    Monfils broke Federer to get even at 2-all, but Federer got the break back for a 3-2 lead en route to winning the set 6-4.

    “I think he needed the crowd and the crowd will stick with him,” Monfils said.

    After the match turned in the fourth set on the saved match points, Monfils was not the same player. He double-faulted twice while serving at 5-all.

    “My serve was not good; it let me down at 5-all,” Monfils said. “I couldn’t quite really use my serve.”

    Monfils then completely checked out in the decisive fifth set as Federer dominated.

    “For five minutes I was a little tired, he started to be very offensive and it was very tough,” Monfils said. “Simply, Roger was too good for me at the end.”

    Federer’s perspective on the final stages was obviously different.

    “I thought the same thing in the Wimbledon final,” Federer said of the epic match he lost to Djokovic earlier this summer. “You just gotta give it all you can in the fifth set.”

    Speaking to the crowd, he added,  “I hope you guys enjoyed it.”

    Photo: USOpen

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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