NEW YORK – Roger Federer saved two match points and came back from a two-sets-to-love deficit to defeat No. 24 Gael Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 on Thursday night to advance to his ninth U.S. Open semifinal. He will play No. 16 Marin Cilic on Saturday.
The final night match of the tournament did not disappoint, with adrenaline-pumping action, several wardrobe changes, a handful of “Come on’s,” multiple Coca-Cola breaks and lots of character from both sides of the court. Monfils, playing in his first U.S. Open quarterfinal since 2010, came out of the gate full of energy. Amidst swirling winds he was the one who played more controlled tennis, with Federer hitting 26 unforced errors in the first two sets (he finished with 44 for the match). But as the wind died down and Federer got his teeth into the match the tables slowly turned. Federer played a near flawless third set – he hit just one unforced error – and the match came down to who could take the fourth set.
Monfils, known for his flashy displays but withering focus, did everything he could to win the fourth set. He was intense, he fired himself up, and he played smart, positive tennis. When Federer broke him in the third game he broke right back in the next. He earned two match points with Federer serving at 4-5, 15-40 but Federer played two sublime points to save each. “Not sure I have ever saved match point before in a Slam,” Federer said. “If that hasn’t happened, I’m unbelievably happy that it was today, because I knew I could play better after the first couple of sets. I believed I could turn it around from the get-go when the third set started, and I’m so happy the crowd got into it.”
Federer would go on to hold and it was Monfils’ turn to serve under pressure. He blinked. Serving at deuce at 5-5, Monfils proceeded to hit back-to-back double-faults to give away the break. He would win just two more games in the match. Federer rolled easily in the fifth set to advance to his third Slam semifinal of the year.
“I think my game got better as the match went on,” Federer said. “I was able to play throughout at a high level physically and mentally. Mentally I’m not ever going to go away, but physically I was right there. I felt great in the fifth against Djokovic [in the Wimbledon final] and great in the fifth against Monfils. I’m happy tonight it paid off. I felt I had more chances throughout the fourth than he did, so it would have been an unbelievable letdown for me to get broken at 5-4 and lose a match like that.”
Monfils believes this was a match Federer took from him rather than one he let get away. “That’s why he’s Roger Federer, because he change [his tactics] so many times,” Monfils said. “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 like very often. It was a bit better for him. Then suddenly he start to mix everything. That’s why he’s the greatest player, because he can do everything.”