NEW YORK — – Clearly frustrated by his play and opponent, Roger Federer whacked his racket on the top of the net after a missed volley. Moments later, he barked at the chair umpire: “What’s wrong with you, man?”
Not long after that, Federer found himself in the precarious position of twice being one point from defeat.
Steady as ever, even at 33, Federer held on. Coming all the way back from a two-set deficit, and saving two match points along the way, Federer edged 20th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 on Thursday night to reach the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time since 2011.
Frustrated by Monfils’ unpredictable style, flummoxed by the wind, and missing shots he normally makes, Federer faced the two match points trailing 5-4 in the fourth set.
“When I was down two match points, that’s when I wasn’t feeling so great anymore,” Federer said with a chuckle. “I thought, ‘This is it. This is the last point, man. Go down fighting. Don’t miss an easy shot and let him have it.’ “
He got out of that hole, starting a five-game run that put the match in his control for the first time. It helped that Monfils’ quality of play dipped, including what wound up being 10 double-faults.
Monfils was trying to reach his second career Grand Slam semifinal. Instead, Federer advanced to his 36th, ninth at Flushing Meadows.
On Saturday, the second-seeded Federer will play 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia. The other semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 10 Kei Nishikori; their quarterfinal wins came Wednesday.
Cilic wasn’t allowed to play in last year’s U.S. Open, forced to the sideline by a four-month doping suspension that he says he didn’t deserve. But Cilic reached the second Grand Slam semifinal of his career by beating sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
“It was a difficult period. I didn’t know when I’m going to start back. But (it) was also (a) good period for me,” Cilic said. “I matured a bit more and I was working, day after day.”