September 5, 2014
Roger Federer survived two match points to overcome Gael Monfils and send an ecstatic New York crowd into wild celebration.
This is why we love tennis. This is why the five-set drama of the Slams is simply irresistible, To be there at the big occasion creates a pleasurable memory for a lifetime, a permanent inner smile. Everyone at Flushing Meadows surely knew they had not only witnessed but actively contributed to something truly special.
At 4-5 and 15-40 behind in the fourth, it looked over for Federer on his own serve. Monfils, who had taken the first two sets, had creaked at times in the crucial fourth but so far refused to crack.
Instead Roger’s stroke-play, so impressive in the third, had suddenly become loose again on both sides and caused his crisis.. Just when all seemed lost, Federer’s legions of fans seemed to will him back into the match. They refused to accept that he was finished. Almost through a collective force of will, Federer was propelled to a 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory in three hours and twenty minutes.
The great man seemed to realise he couldn’t have done it alone. ‘The crowd was unbelievable, incredible,’ Roger acknowledged straight afterwards. ‘They helped me get it done for sure. I knew I could play better tennis. When I was down two match points that’s when I wasn’t feeling so great any more.
‘I thought, “this is the last point man, just go down fighting, don’t miss an easy shot and let him have it.”‘
Then Roger recalled the moment he thought Monfils had achieved a fatal backhand retrieve. It was a split-second when the world stopped and we all held our breath. ‘He reached it and it floated past me and I was thinking like “freeze frame…no way”… and then…”it’s OK, it’s out, oh my God, it’s alright.” It was just one of those moments, you know, but then I went for it.’
Federer suddenly seized control of his destiny to erase the second match point with a thumping forehand. From that moment he never looked back. ‘I served well and stayed in the match and somehow turned it around.’
Maximising the psychological impact of Gael’s double slip-up, Federer took a natural break before the final set, as if to give Monfils plenty of time to think about the glorious opportunities he had just squandered. What followed was one-sided as Monfils soon seemed to throw in the towel. Federer explained: ‘In the fifth I had momentum and he was feeling low after such a tough fourth set.’
An epic battle was already won, another special memory born.
Now Roger faces Marin Cilic, who defeated Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to book his own semi-final spot.
The big Croat hasn’t beaten Federer in five tries. But the cool Swiss insists he will take nothing for granted. ‘Marin has improved working with Goran Ivanisevic, who I played against. (I was his number one fan when he won Wimbledon, by the way.) Marin’s a great guy, we played a tough, tough match in Toronto when I needed about nine match points to close it out…but I’m looking forward to the match.’
It couldn’t possibly be more dramatic than this one, though in the Slams you just never know what might be around the corner.
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