Toronto: Federer d. Ferrer

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Roger Federer celebrated his 33rd birthday beating David Ferrer to reach the Rogers Cup semifinals. (AP Photo)

Toronto fans serenaded Roger Federer, singing "Happy Birthday" during the opening coin toss. An ornery David Ferrer muted the revelry in the second set, but couldn't prevent Federer from orchestrating a familiar refrain.

Asserting his all-court game after a lapse, Federer celebrated his 33rd birthday by subduing the Spanish party crasher, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, to advance to the Rogers Cup semifinals for the sixth time.

These two have a history, and it's a wretched flashback for Ferrer, who took the court carrying his Prince racquets and an 0-14 career record against Federer. Perhaps stressing from past shellackings, Ferrer imploded in a hideous four-error game to gift the opening break. A benevolent Federer netted a volley to give the break right back. The fifth seed denied two break points in the third game, but Federer breezed through a love hold and ratcheted up the pressure.

A common connection among some players who've beaten Federer this season—Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, and Ernests Gulbis—is the ability to impress the cross-court backhand to the Swiss' one-hander on pivotal points. Ferrer doesn't generate the same bite or sharp angle off his flatter two-hander, and when he slapped a backhand into net Federer had the break and a 3-2 lead.

Lunging left, Federer reflexed a stunning backhand drop volley winner to hold for 5-3. When Ferrer curled a crosscourt forehand wide, Federer collected the 35-minute opener.

It was an uneven performance from Federer in the second set. He showed flashes of shot-making brilliance—running down a Ferrer lob and whipping a slick, over-the-shoulder forehand down the line in the fifth game—but shanked some backhands, netted a few forehands, and won just three of 13 points on his second serve. He also couldn't stay in step when Ferrer raised his game.

A stray backhand opened opportunity for Ferrer in the ninth game. Sneaking in, he blocked a high forehand volley to earn double break point. Surprising Federer with a return down the line, Ferrer broke for 5-4 with a firm "Vamos!" Ferrer won 10 of the last 11 points to hijack a 38-minute second set he had spent mostly playing catch-up. Federer contributed to his own demise by tripling Ferrer's unforced error output (21 to 7) in the set.

Down 0-30 moments into the third, Federer hit a snazzy forehand swing volley and stabbed back a squash shot on the full stretch to halt a three-game slide. A snarling Ferrer continued to bark at himself between points and fire away with his trademark inside-out forehand, earning break point in the fifth game. Federer slid a serve winner down the middle to save it. A sliced ace wide and sweeping forehand drive volley completed the hold for 3-2.

Amping up the attack, Federer blocked a forehand volley for 30-all, lashed a backhand winner down the line for break point, and broke for 4-2 when Ferrer swatted a forehand into net. A commitment to moving forward at the right times—and the benefit of the bounce—aided Federer, who won 22 of 30 net trips to net. Serving-and-volleying on a game point, Federer warded off a jamming return by dipping a backhand volley that collided into the top of the tape before trickling over the net for 5-2. Federer held up his hand in apology, while Ferrer raised an eyebrow of resignation.

A forehand winner down the line brought the two-time former champion to match point. Federer snapped off a smash to wrap a one hour, 53-minute win and advance to his 51st ATP semifinal. He will face Feliciano Lopez, who upset sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic in the evening's first quarterfinal. Federer is 10-0 lifetime against Lopez, including seven hard-court victories.

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