Monfils stuns Federer to set up Sodering final

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PARIS - Gael Monfils returned to the Paris Masters finals for a second consecutive year, saving five match points in a dramatic 7-6 (7), 6-7 (1), 7-6(4) win over the Swiss top seed Roger Federer Saturday.

The Frenchman, who thrilled a sellout 14,000 fans, will Sunday play Swede Robin Soderling, who made a comeback escape in a defeat of Michael Llodra 6-7 (0-7), 7-5, 7-6(6).

Both Monfils and Llodra will figure in the French lineup next month in the Davis Cup final in Belgrade against Serbia.

Federer, winner of two straight titles and his previous 12 matches, was unable to pull the trigger in the dramatic 12th game of the third set after having held a 4-2 lead in the set, as his usually reliable forehand was nowhere to be seen in the crunch.

Monfils kept his nerve to force the final-set decider as he held for 6-all, then edged ahead of the top seed, who owns 17 Masters 1000 titles.

The 12th seed took victory after two-and-three-quarter hours on the first of his own two match points.

“Tough match, obviously very much a serving contest,” said Federer. “That’s the way it is on fast surfaces. Suddenly you’re winning very fast, and suddenly it changes and you don’t know why.

“Anyway, I don’t believe I was losing my concentration. I was feeling good in this tournament until now. Of course this hurts.”

Federer entered the semifinal not having lost a set since October 22 in Stockholm against Stanislas Wawrinka, and was bidding for a third trophy in succession after winning Stockholm and Basel.

Until Friday when he beat Jurgen Melzer, Federer had never been past a Bercy quarterfinal. He has had Paris success across the town on the clay, winning Roland Garros last year and reaching the final three other times.

Monfils lost in 2009 in the title match against Novak Djokovic. He had never beaten Federer in five attempts and had lost 12 of 13 sets going in. His week has been charmed as he saved two match points to beat Fernando Verdasco in the third round, and put out Andy Murray in the quarters.

“I’m happy I won against Rog, he’s someone I admire a lot,” said Monfils. “He’s a legend of tennis, and beating him is a beautiful victory. I will remember this for my whole life.”

“And also it happened in very special conditions for me, in Paris, so it’s only happiness.”

Soderling had a huge battle to stay alive in the final game before the tiebreaker against Llodra.

The Swede went through nine deuces in a 14-minute game in which he saved three match points for Llodra to survive 6-6 with his 19th ace. But reaching the tiebreaker didn’t allow Soderling any relief, with the Swede losing a 5-2 lead as Llodra levelled at 5-all.

Soderling secured his first match point, only to have it annulled by Llodra before finally claiming the victory 8-6 in the decider.

The pair fired 43 aces between them with Llodra leading on 24.

“This is my third final in Paris, and I hope I’ll win this one,” said the Swede.

“This year for me it’s been very good in the Grand Slams and also in the Masters Series. I’ve played two semifinals, now one quarters, and a final.

“It’s good, but I’m still missing a win. I really hope I can play well tomorrow, and then hopefully I have a chance.”

The last Swede into a Bercy final was Jonas Bjorkman in 1997 while Thomas Enqvist was the last Swedish winner the year before.

Filed under: Tennis

Tags: ,
will not be displayed