Federer reaches 18th major semifinal in a row
NEW YORK ” Roger Federer edged 130th-ranked qualifier Gilles Muller 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5) at the U.S. Open on Thursday to reach the semifinals for the 18th consecutive Grand Slam tournament.
It was Federer’s 32nd victory in a row at Flushing Meadows, where he has won the past four championships.
Despite playing a man who never before was past the third round at a major event, Federer had some trouble. 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 told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. “I didn’t get that many opportunities.”
No other man has played in more than 10 major semifinals in a row. Bidding for a 13th Grand Slam title, which would move him one shy of Pete Sampras’ record, Federer will meet No. 3 Novak Djokovic or No. 8 Andy Roddick in the semifinals. Djokovic and Roddick were to play Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a tough match, either way,” Federer said.
Really, Roger? Perhaps you’ve forgotten that you are 15-2 against Roddick, 6-2 against Djokovic.
Saturday’s other men’s semifinal will be No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 6 Andy Murray.
In the women’s semifinals Friday, two-time champion Serena Williams will face Dinara Safina, and Jelena Jankovic will meet Elena Dementieva. 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 semifinals in January. He won a record-tying five consecutive Wimbledon titles, until losing a 9-7 fifth set to Rafael 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 U.S. Davis Cup captain who is coaching Roddick at the Open.
“I don’t think he’s playing quite at the level that he was in the last couple years,” McEnroe added, “but he’s certainly capable of turning it around.”
Federer did exactly that in the final tiebreaker against Muller, the only man from Luxembourg to enter a major tennis tournament.
Trailing 4-1, Federer took six of the final seven points, including a cross-court backhand passing shot to get to match point. It was the sort of brilliant stroke Federer often produces, but he marked this one with a loud shout of “Come on!”
When Muller put a backhand into the net on the next point, the tighter-than-expected match was over and Federer finally could smile.
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