For the 31st time in his career, Roger Federer is into a Grand Slam semifinal. Federer won a 5-set thriller beating Juan Martin Del Potro 36, 67, 62, 60, 63. It was the seventh time in his career Federer came back from two sets.
It was Federer’s third comeback from two sets at the French Open. The 30-year-old Swiss also improved to 19-16 in matches decided in a fifth set. Federer now leads del Potro 12-2 in their series.
Federer spoke about the win afterward: (congrats to all the Federer fans!)
Q. In the first two sets especially, I mean, it looked as if Del Potro’s resistance to your groundstroke rhythm had improved and he was playing much better than before in the groundstrokes. Then in the rest of the match you suddenly seemed to take over. What made the difference between the start and the end of the match?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, comparing to this year’s matches, it’s obviously the first one on clay. Conditions are slow, particularly on clay. That makes it hard for a lot of variation. You don’t get any free points on the serve.
Anything that’s maybe short rallies and chips and down the line shots, it’s a better match for me. He obviously like to go back into backhand and then rip the forehand once he gets the chance.
I thought it was very good conditions for him. I knew it was going to be tough anyway. I have still been struggling to find my rhythm. I did feel it in the first set, even though he was up two sets two breaks. I was finding a way back and starting to feel better.
Just trying to figure out how to play a guy who returns from so far back on a slow court. Do you try to serve through him? Which I tried; didn’t work. Or do I try and move it around a bit. And that worked a bit better, but it was really in the mixup that, you know, I found success.
Second set was a tough, you know, set for me to lose, but he played a really good breaker and got the better of me. But I was happy that the first two sets took some time, because I did favor myself once the match got longer. That’s kind of how it came.
So I’m very happy with the way I fought and started in the third set, fourth set, and even in the fifth set where obviously it was the toughest, because that was his last chance and his resistance maybe was the biggest there.
Q. You said that you felt that as the match went on your chances would improve. Did you feel his physical condition started to deteriorate a bit when he had the trainer on and they were looking at his knee? How did you feel he was moving at that stage?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don’t know. He called the trainer but he didn’t take a timeout. So I didn’t know what they were talking about, if he got painkillers or what happened. So I was just trying to focus on me, really, because I was in trouble. He wasn’t.
Maybe his knee was, I don’t know. But doesn’t matter how bad that knee is, maybe he can just sit on it and just say, Okay, here. Take the two next sets. I will wait here half hour, 45 minutes, and then I’ll come back in the fifth set and I will destroy you.
I knew it was going to be a tricky match, I knew that margins were not on my side anymore. That’s where I just tried to keep playing tough, make him understand how far he still had to go, as well, because I had a very long way.
I was able to do all of those things, and I was very happy the way I played, you know, starting the third set.
Q. It was a rare shout out from you at the end of the second set tiebreak. I couldn’t quite tell what it was about. Were you frustrated with your game or with the crowd?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, look, I was pushing hard and I was trying to should have maybe won that second set earlier. I’m stuck in a breaker. Juan Martin is playing well, hitting hard, I’m in defense.
Obviously I was emotional and I was, you know, sometimes upset. Sometimes just trying to push myself on. Push harder and try harder and move faster, all those things, because I knew it could be crucial to the match.
Thank God it wasn’t, but in the moment itself you don’t know. So you wait and see.
Q. What does it feel like being two sets down in a Grand Slam? What did you think about maybe your match against Tommy Haas here a few years ago when you returned to the game, of course, and won?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course I did think of the Tommy Haas match. Of course I thought about the fivesetter I had here with Juan Martin in 2009.
Maybe I drew some inspiration off it. But then again, completely different place, you know. Suzanne Lenglen; it’s raining. It’s a different situation, really.
But, you know, you just try to push further and it’s not easy, you know. But at the same time you are happy it’s a Grand Slam, because any other tournament I would have been out of the tournament.
This way, you know, the road to victory is much longer and it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’m happy I came through. I feel great, you know, after the fivesetter.
So I’m obviously happy I get two days, but it’s not necessary. Looking forward to a big semifinal.
Q. When you’re playing Novak, how much do previous encounters go into your thinking going into the match?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it’s helpful if you’ve won the last three, four, five, maybe. Obviously it helps to win one like he did in Rome, I would think.
But then again, this is the best situation. It’s the bestoffive. It’s something we’re not I don’t want to say accustomed to anymore as much, because we did play many more bestoffive set matches, let’s say, seven to ten years ago when all of the finals or many of the tournaments like in Basel, for instance, Gstaad, Vienna. You name it, they were all bestoffive set finals. The Masters 1000, most of them, were best offiveset finals.
So you used to play many more. Now all of a sudden you can go six months and not play almost any fivesetter, and even three years, let’s say.
So it’s a different approach, and I think we’re both aware of that. We’re looking forward to it. Give us more time to find our range, and once we find our range, it’s going to be tough for the opponent.
Q. You just said bestoffive you need a different approach. Can you talk about what some of the best approaches are of bestoffive over bestofthree against him?
ROGER FEDERER: Doesn’t matter if it’s Novak or any other player really. You just want to be well prepared; you want to be mentally ready for a long day.
Obviously over five sets, as well, the rain or the sunshine could come and go. You have more possibility of interruption just because you’re out there for a longer period of time. It’s a different kind of approach.
Obviously the start to the match is important, but then again, we saw that it didn’t matter at the US Open when we played each other; it didn’t matter this time when we played; to Del Potro it didn’t matter.
So that sometimes just keeps you honest to the very, very end, and you have to play as hard as I can every single point against him and see how it goes.
THE MODERATOR: French questions.
Q. Can you explain the beginning of this match? Were there any specific reasons to explain the beginning of your match?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I was just trying to find my game. The court was very slow. I served at 200 kilometers per hour and he returned very nicely, so it wasn’t like in Madrid.
Q. On a scale from 0 to 10, how well did you play today? Should you prefer to play Djokovic or Nadal?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, Rafa, I’m not playing him next time. He’s not even qualified for the final, so I’m playing Novak. I hope I’ll play a very good match.
I don’t know. If my level was one for all of my previous matches, I know that I have to reach a level of 10 to play against him. So that’s all I can say. We’ll see.
We’ll see how fit he is. I know I have to play a great match.
Q. Novak saved four match points against Jo. You probably know that. What would you have to say about this match?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I’m very disappointed for Jo. I would have loved to play him here in Paris.
It’s like in Bercy. He missed two match points against Isner; he missed four here. I have a feeling that the crowd would have loved to see such a match. For him, it’s a disappointment.
As for me, it’s nothing different as from last year. I’m playing Djokovic in the semifinal.
Q. During the two first sets, you were trying to find your tennis. Could you say that you found it during the two last sets?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I won’t say that. Everybody said the same thing about Gasquet when he had 6Love, 6Love and then lost to Murray.
But anyway, I’m very happy I managed to go through to the semifinals.
Q. This was a complicated match, but do you think you can raise your level to defeat Djokovic as you did last year?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes. What else can I say?
Q. A question from your fans, which is not much to do with the match: You were born very close to the French/Swiss border. Are you certain you were born in Switzerland?
ROGER FEDERER: I think yes. I can’t remember because I was very small, very little when it happened. (Laughter.)
But my mother told me it was in Basel, so it was on the Swiss side and not on the French side. But if you want confirmation, ask my mother. She knows everything about it.
Q. You lost to Tsonga in five sets in Wimbledon. You also lost to Djokovic in five sets. Would this victory in five sets confirm that you can win a match in five sets?
ROGER FEDERER: I know I can win a match in five sets. I should have, I could have, against Jo or Novak. It was so close against Novak. Afterwards it’s normal to have regrets.
No, I’m not asking myself that kind of question. I’m fit. I have no physical problems, which was different three, five weeks ago. I’m very happy. I’m in good shape. That’s it. I’m fine.
It’s always good to come back from two sets to zero. You don’t always play matches in five sets, and that was the one I had to win.
Q. This is your 31st semifinals in a Grand Slam, like Jimmy Connors. Do these figures still matter to you?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, yes, a bit. It’s an inspiration for an athlete, for a tennis player. I find inspiration from great matches, from other players. I find inspiration in records.
I need many different things: Fans, tournaments, traveling. I need many things to push me to accomplish even more. So when I break a record like this one, it’s phenomenal and I like it.
Q. We’ve seen you asking for different balls when it’s raining like this. Are you trying to get the driest possible balls?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, we players, we no longer have time to choose the balls. I try and do that very quickly, and I think about the situation in the tiebreak.
Well, the ball boy would roll the ball behind you, and I just wanted to see how we would stop it. I did this four times. I was a bit stern, but the ball boys are very good. I just wanted to see if he could catch it, and they did each time.
I needed this to relax mentally for 10 seconds. I didn’t want not to be nice to the ball boy.
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