Roger Federer knows this is his best chance to win the French Open.
So does everyone else. And they all keep telling him — fellow diners at restaurants, passersby on the street, people who hop out of cars at red lights and ask for an autograph.
“Everybody,” Federer said, "is like, ‘This is your year. You've got to do it.’”
By beating 11th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday, Federer moved into the French Open semifinals for the fifth consecutive time. There is one significant difference in 2009: Rafael Nadal is not around to prevent Federer from claiming the only Grand Slam singles title he’s never won.
Federer lost to Nadal in the past three French Open finals, and in the semifinals the year before that. Put another way: Since the start of the 2005 French Open, Federer is 0-4 against Nadal at Roland Garros, 28-0 against everyone else.
“If I can't win this tournament, I want to see, next Sunday, Roger with the trophy,” said No 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, who eliminated No 16 Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the last quarterfinal.
There is plenty on the line for Federer over the coming days. If he can get past del Potro in Friday's semifinals, then defeat No 12 Fernando Gonzalez or No 23 Robin Soderling in Sunday's final, it would make Federer only the sixth man in history with a career Grand Slam.
It also would give Federer a 14th major singles title, tying him with Pete Sampras for the most in history. While Nadal's exit, and those of No 3 Andy Murray and No 4 Novak Djokovic, made Federer's path easier, the pressure has increased, too.
"It's also one of the reasons why I was nervous going into the previous game, because the stories of Nadal losing, Murray losing, Djokovic losing, also play on your mind," Federer said.