Federer to face Frenchman Monfils | AspenTimes.com

Federer to face Frenchman Monfils

Steven Wine
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Top-seeded Roger Federer, of Switzerland, rests at the net during a training session Thursday May 22, 2008 at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. The French Open tennis tournament starts Sunday.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS ” Graceful as always with his footwork, a grinning Roger Federer skipped toward the net after completing his latest Grand Slam victory.

The rare flash of exuberance from the Swiss champion lasted only two or three steps, but it showed how happy he was to move forward at the French Open. Federer rallied Wednesday to defeat Fernando Gonzalez 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the semifinals at his 16th consecutive major event, extending his own record.

Seeking the only Grand Slam title he has yet to win, the top-ranked Federer may have caught a break in his path to the final. His opponent Friday will be Gael Monfils, at No. 59 the lowest-ranked men’s semifinalist at Roland Garros since 1999.

Meanwhile, No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Novak Djokovic face a semifinal showdown in the other bracket.

In the women’s semifinals Thursday, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was to face fellow Russian Dinara Safina, who has been one point from defeat in each of her past two matches before mounting a comeback. The other semifinal was an all-Serbian pairing: No. 2-seeded Ana Ivanovic against No. 3 Jelena Jankovic.

The No. 13-seeded Safina escaped Wednesday against No. 7 Elena Dementieva, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-0. The No. 4-seeded Kuznetsova beat Kaia Kanepi 7-5, 6-2.

Federer has reached the semifinals at Roland Garros for the fourth consecutive year.

“It’s always a great pleasure being in the last four,” he said. “This is usually where I hope to play my best, and especially here at the French, which is supposed to maybe be the toughest one for me.

“To make four in a row is a great accomplishment, but this year I’m obviously particularly aiming for the title. So I hope it’s not going to stop here.”

Monfils has other ideas, even though he’s 0-3 against Federer.

“I’m at home,” Monfils said. “I’m ready and waiting for him.”

The French Open boys champion in 2004, Monfils is the first Frenchman to reach the final four at Roland Garros since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001. He advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal by beating No. 5-seeded David Ferrer 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Following an earlier victory, Monfils celebrated with a dance borrowed from American rapper Soulja Boy. Later he was wearing a Miami Hurricanes football jersey. And when asked if facing Federer was like France versus Brazil in soccer, he grinned.

“I would say instead it’s like Lakers vs. Boston,” he said. “It’s going to be a big match, but ‘the’ match is not a semifinal. It’s going to be a big match, probably the most important match in my career so far, but it’s not Game 7 yet.”

Against Gonzalez, Federer appeared susceptible to an upset after committing a dozen unforced errors in the first set. He found himself on the defensive against the No. 24-seeded Gonzalez, who came into the match 16-0 on clay this year.

“I was a bit afraid because the match was not going the way I wanted,” Federer said.

He became more aggressive, attacking Gonzalez’s forehand. The change in tactic helped him repeatedly reach the net, where he won 29 of 35 points.

In the final three sets, Federer held all 13 service games. He won 36 of his final 40 service points, including the last 17 in a row.

“He took control,” Gonzalez said, “and he didn’t let me do too much.”

That’s a common story against Federer, whose 12 major titles are second only to Pete Sampras’ 14. He’s bidding to become the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam championships.