Federer reaches 18th major semi-final in a row
Roger Federer had to work harder than expected in a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Muller on Thursday.5 September 2008
NEW YORK -- The untouchable aura has faded but the results are coming all the same for Roger Federer, who held off 130th-ranked Gilles Muller at the US Open to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for an 18th consecutive time.
Second-ranked Federer had to work harder than expected in a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Muller on Thursday. It was his 32nd consecutive victory in a row at Flushing Meadows, where he has won the past four championships.
Bidding for a 13th Grand Slam title, which would move him one short of Pete Sampras' record, Federer will next meet N. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who beat 2003 champion and local favourite Andy Roddick 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5).
Djokovic and Federer's meeting will be a rematch of last year's US Open final. Djokovic, who is 2-6 against Federer, called the Swiss star the "absolute favourite".
Djokovic was thinking of Federer's record, not so much on this week's form.
No other man has played in more than 10 major semi-finals in a row - although it was Djokovic who cashed in the last time Federer lost a semi-final at a Grand Slam tournament, the young Serb upsetting him in the semis before going on to win the Australian Open in January.
Despite playing a man who never before was past the third round at a major, Federer had some trouble with Muller. He wasted six set points in the opener but closed it out on his seventh chance when Muller missed a backhand volley. Federer only went 1-for-11 on break-point chances.
"Today was particularly difficult - the sun, the wind, and he's been serving great," Federer said of Muller, a qualifier. "I didn't get that many opportunities."
Saturday's other men's semi-final will be top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who has beaten Federer in the last two finals at Grand Slams, against Scotland's Andy Murray.
One of the four will move up to No. 1 in the rankings after the tournament.
Federer spent a record 237 consecutive weeks atop the men's rankings from February 2004 until last month, when Nadal supplanted him. That's only one of the streaks Federer has seen snapped this year.
He reached a record 10 consecutive major finals, until losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals in January.
He won a record-tying five consecutive Wimbledon titles, until losing a 9-7 fifth set to Nadal in near-darkness in July. He was seeded No 1 at 18 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments until Nadal relegated him to No 2 at this one.
"There's a lot at stake for him, obviously, as far as, you know, not having won a major this year and losing a No 1 ranking. So he seems to be obviously very focused and is playing better," said Patrick McEnroe, the US Davis Cup captain who is coaching Roddick at the Open.
Federer did exactly that in the final tiebreaker against Muller.
Trailing 4-1, Federer took six of the final seven points, including a cross-court backhand to get to match point. It was the sort of brilliant stroke Federer often produces, but he marked this one with a loud "Come on!"
[AP / Expatica]