He was all the more so because he started the set so poorly. Playing in cool, windy conditions that he had expressed concern about in a pre-match interview, Federer was broken in the third game, double-faulting on game point. Federer’s forehand was all over the place and there was a possibility that if he didn’t get it back, the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd might really have something to cheer about.
But third seed gradually found the range and, with the help of some Monfils unforced errors, got the break back, putting the score at 3-3 with a superb, backhand drop-volley winner that was right out of the Federer treasure trove of shots. It was a new ballgame, and a newly confident Federer wasn’t going to back off. He upped the tempo and challenged Monfils to go toe-to-toe in the rallies.
It soon became obvious that Monfils couldn’t maintain a rhythm needed to match a Federer in full flight. The Swiss seemed to relish the battle, happy to show the younger man who was boss, and broke serve in the last game of the first set to take it 6-4. On French Television, commentator Lionel Chamoulaud got so carried away he described Federer as “l’élégance absolue” (the ultimate in elegance).
Federer carried on his form into the second set, breaking serve for a 2-0 lead before having a brief hiccup when serving at 3-1, allowing Monfils to get back on serve. But in the following game, disaster struck the Frenchman. He missed the easiest of smashes (though in windy conditions, nothing is a gimme) and then double-faulted twice in a row to hand the break back to Federer, who went on to close out the set 6-3.
After a break in the opening game of the third set, it looked like this might turn into a Federer runaway. But some patchy play let Monfils back into the match when he broke serve for 2-2. It was a fairly even match the rest of the way, even if Federer had the majority of the break opportunities.
But in the decisive tiebreak, it was one-way traffic—Federer took a 6-1 lead before closing it out, 7-3, to set up Friday’s semi-final with Novak Djokovic. Asked afterward what he thought about Djokovic having four days off, Federer said, “there’s a lot of debate, ‘will it be good or bad for him?’ I went through that once at Wimbledon—I had six and a half days off. I think it’s an advantage. He’s played a lot this year so every break he can get is good.”
An update on something from Sunday’s Racquet Reaction: I was informed by a member of the Federer camp that Roger’s father, Robert, has been wearing the red ‘RF’ cap for seven years, and that it is the original Roger Federer Foundation cap.