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Old 06-05-2009, 10:06 PM   #252
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Default Re: Roger news and articles

Fabulous Federer stands firm to make final
Friday, June 5, 2009
By David Tutton


Roger Federer edged closer to tennis immortality on Friday after standing firm in the face of a Juan Martin Del Potro onslaught to win in five gruelling sets 3-6 7-6(2) 2-6 6-1 6-4. In one of the all-time great French Open semi-finals, the second seed drew on all his experience, class and courage to grind down an adversary who looked in control and on course for victory for long periods, before tiring noticeably.

The Swiss great now knows he is one match from making history. Should he beat Robin Soderling in Sundayís final, Federer will become only the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles. He will also equal Pete Sampras' all-time record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

Playing his 200th Grand Slam match and, incredibly, 20th consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, the Swiss was made to fight all the way by fifth seed Del Potro. Playing in his first-ever Grand Slam semi, the Argentinean steamrolled his illustrious elder for two of the first three sets but proved unable to sustain his barrage of booming serves and pummelling ground strokes as the match drew into a fourth hour.

Federer in contrast upped his game at just the right time, drawing level at one set all when under pressure and then making the most of the Argentineanís dip in form in the fourth to drive his advantage home. The fifth set was all about who could deal with the fatigue and the pressure, and at that game Federer is a past master. A brilliant inside-out forehand sealed the match after 3 hours 29 minutes to send Federer and his admiring fans into raptures.

Early dominance

The match was an epic, and like all epics could have gone either way. Del Potro began as he meant to go on, crashing down aces from a great height (16 in all to Rogerís 5) and thrashing winners all over the court (55 to Federerís 50). The force of his groundstrokes was a sight to behold, and try as he might Federer was unable to prevent a break, first in the fifth game and then again in the ninth. The opener was wrapped up 6-3 in 38 minutes.

Things were looking ominous for the Swiss, but he is not one of the all-time greats for nothing. If he could not find a way past the Argentineanís booming serve, he would hang in there and wait either for an opportunity to arise or for his opponent to miss. The latter finally occurred in a high pressure second set tiebreak, when Del Potro netted twice and hit long to hand him the set 7-6(2).

That proved to be crucial, because the 20 year old was right back on hard-hitting form in the third set, which he took 6-2 in 36 minutes, breaking Federer twice in the process. As in the first set, there was little the former world number one could do about it.

Turning tide

Then, at last, Del Potro showed signs of weakening. His hitherto impeccable first serve began to malfunction and his groundstrokes to misfire. As a result, Federer gained his first break points since the opening set in the first game of the fourth set, failed to capitalise, but made no mistake in the fourth game and again in the sixth to seize the set 6-1 in 38 minutes.

Federer now had the bit between his teeth. He began running around his backhand to fire crosscourt winners and upped his first serve percentage to keep his opponent under pressure. He also used the drop shot to great effect as the conditions became heavier.

It was no surprise when the Swiss broke Del Potro in the opening game of the fifth set and then led 3-1. But just when we were all thinking it was all but over, Del Potro fought back, finding the corners again to level at 3-3. That proved to be a last hurrah for the brave youngster. Federer broke back immediately to lead 4-3 and served out for the set at 5-4.

One match away

Federer has now equalled Ivan Lendlís all-time record of 19 Grand Slam finals and is set to appear in his fourth consecutive Roland Garros final on Sunday. With Rafael Nadal, his nemesis of the past three years, safely out of the tournament, and only the unheralded Swede Robin Soderling standing between him and his Holy Grail, Federer will be feeling confident he is nearly there.

But he also knows that Soderling has been playing awesome tennis all fortnight, and that nothing, least of all immortality, should be taken for grantedÖ

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source: from the Roland Garros site
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