Saturday 21 April 2018

French Open: Steely Federer hits back in style

Paul Newman AT ROLAND GARROS

Nobody is cooler in a crisis than Roger Federer and the 30-year-old Swiss produced another dramatic comeback against Juan Martin del Potro yesterday to take his place in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Federer won 3-6 6-7 6-2 6-0 6-3 to win a match from two sets down for the seventh time in his career, but the story could have been very different had Del Potro not suffered a recurrence of a knee injury which has been troubling him throughout the tournament.

For the Argentinian, it was a second major disappointment here against Federer. Three years ago Del Potro led by two sets to one in the semi-finals before letting victory slip from his grasp.

On another cold and damp day at Roland Garros -- by the end of the match persistent rain was falling -- Federer looked badly out of sorts in the early stages before securing the 31st Grand Slam semi-final appearance of his career, which equals Jimmy Connors' all-time record.

He is the first man over the age of 30 to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros since Andres Gomez in 1990.

For two sets, Federer (right) found it hard to find his rhythm under an onslaught from Del Potro's ferocious groundstrokes, just as he had when the Argentinian beat him in the US Open final three years ago.

Del Potro's bludgeoning forehand in particular, struck low and flat with enormous force, is arguably the most powerful in the modern game.

Del Potro took the first set with breaks in the third and seventh games. When the world No 9 won the second-set tie-break 7-4 with a typically big forehand into the corner, he appeared to be on the brink of his biggest victory since beginning his comeback last year after 12 months out with a serious wrist injury, but it soon became clear that his knee problem was troubling him again.

Federer made an early break in the third set, during which Del Potro consulted both a trainer and a doctor, but by now the Argentinian's movement was seriously impaired. Del Potro won just eight points in the fourth set, after which he had his knee re-bandaged.

Although he appeared to run a little more freely at the start of the decider, Del Potro was soon on the way out. Federer broke to lead 3-1 and eventually secured victory after three and a quarter hours when Del Potro put a forehand wide. "He fought like a hero," Federer said.

In tomorrow's semi-finals, Federer will face Novak Djokovic, who also had to come from behind before beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 5-7 5-7 7-6 6-1.

The world No 1, keeping alive his goal of becoming the first man for 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles, saved four match points in the fourth set before winning the tie-break 8-6. From that point onwards Tsonga's challenge crumbled.

Meanwhile, Sam Stosur and Sara Errani will meet in the first of the women's semi-finals tomorrow. Stosur has won all five of their previous meetings and there could hardly be a greater contrast between them.

Errani, who is just 5ft 4in and weighs only 9st 6lb, relies on her speed and imagination, while the athletic Stosur frustrates her opponents with her high-kicking serve and thumping ground strokes.

"She played like a man -- and it's really hard to play against a man," Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova said after her 6-4 6-1 defeat by Stosur , who saved nine out of 10 break points.

Errani had never beaten a top-10 player in 28 attempts before her 6-3 7-6 victory over Germany's Angelique Kerber. (© Independent News Service)

French Open, Live, Eurosport/Setanta/ITV4, 12.30

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport