Fighting Federer on the cusp of his Paris dream
Roger Federer played a demoralising drop shot at the perfect moment to turn the tables and start his charge into a fourth consecutive French Open final on Friday at the expense of Argentine Juan Del Potro 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.sports Updated: Jun 06, 2009 08:56 IST
Roger Federer played a demoralising drop shot at the perfect moment to turn the tables and start his charge into a fourth consecutive French Open final on Friday at the expense of Argentine Juan Del Potro 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The world No 2 will face an untried challenger in surprising Swede Robin Soderling, who pounded his way into the Sunday title match by taking down one of the hardest hitters in the game with a 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 defeat of Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.
The Swiss holds a 9-0 mark against the Scandinavian who shocked four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and then kept up his momentum all this week to reach the final.
"It's not because I have an unbelievable record against him that it will be easy," said Federer three hours, 28 minutes on court against world number five Del Potro.
"Soderling beat Nadal and he deserves to be in the final."
Federer was looking fragile at times in his sixth career match-up with Del Potro, with the eventual winner of their roller-coaster match at times anyone's guess.
It took a run of form and some serving miscues from the tiring Argentine to seal the victory after Del Potro saved a match point in the penultimate game. Federer took his popular win despite losing a break in the fifth set, going through on his second chance with a lethal forehand to the corner for an untouchable winner.
"I was a bit lucky today," said the world number two. "But there is still one match to go. I'm very satisfied. Del Potro played very well, he's young and this is sad for him."
The Swiss, working to complete his Grand Slam matched set by finally winning the title at Roland Garros - he has lost the last three finals to Nadal - secured his first break of the contest against Del Potro two and a half hours deep into the battle.
Federer set it up midway through the fourth set with a drop shot which brought on a break point in the fourth game.
A return long from the South American finally earned Federer the key break, which laid the foundation for two more breaks of the suddenly jittery challenger who had never won a set off the Swiss prior to Friday.
Federer, his confidence growing as light began to slightly fade, proceeded to sweep the struggle into a decisive final set as he reached 2-0 in the fifth, a winning run of eight of the previous nine games.
Federer owns 13 majors, one short of the all-time mark of 14 held by Pete Sampras.
Soderling is poised to fulfill the legacy of six-time champion compatriot Bjorn Borg after his unexpected performance.
He mounted a huge fightback from 4-1 down in the final set to overhaul a discouraged Gonzalez, losing finalist to Federer at the 2007 Australian Open.
"This was just an unbelievable match," said Soderling, who had never previously been past the third round of a Slam. "I played great in the first two sets and then he lifted his level.
"My serve - 16 aces to 22 for Gonzalez - saved me. This feels so good."
The Swede stayed ice-calm as he served it out after three and half hours with two mighty forehands.
"My first feeling was actually relief that the match was over, because it was a really long match, and I was tired at the end," said the winner. "And then after a few seconds, I got really, really happy."
"It's a great feeling, finals of a Grand Slam. The biggest tournament in the world, and on clay. If you'd ask me a couple years ago which Grand Slam I'd play a final in during 2009, I wouldn't have said Roland Garros."
Gonzalez said he never got in his zone. "I never feel comfortable on the court because of him. He was playing at a really high level, and I felt that the ball was moving a lot and I couldn't hit it clearly.
"Close or far from the final, doesn't make any difference. I didn't make it. That's the reality."
First Published: Jun 06, 2009 08:39 IST