Federer’s finesse overcomes Paris woes


PARIS: Roger Federer broke his ATP Paris Masters hoodoo by beating Austrian 11th seed Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) here on Friday to reach the semi-finals at the Bercy arena for the first time in his career. The 16-time Grand Slam champion will contest a place in the final with French 12th seed Gael Monfils, last year’s beaten finalist, who upset British third seed Andy Murray 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
Federer served and returned with breath-taking efficiency in the first set against Melzer, breaking his opponent twice in succession to go 5-0 up inside 15 minutes and securing a one-set lead with a pair of thumping aces. The top seed, chasing a third straight title after successes in Stockholm and Basel, encountered stiffer resistance in a tight second set.
Melzer, a semi-finalist at this year’s French Open, matched the Swiss great stride for stride but was undone in the tie-break after netting a straightforward volley to gift Federer a 5-4 lead that he did not relinquish.
“I served well the whole match, but in the second set he was able to play a bit more solidly overall and serve a bit better,” said Federer. “I think I played a perfect first set, but after that I knew it was going to be closer because the first set wasn’t really reality.”
Monfils had been taken to three long sets in a sapping third-round win over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco on Thursday, but he showed few signs of fatigue as he broke Murray twice to take the first set.
The Scot was quick to bite back, however, breaking in the sixth game of set two when his charge to the net forced Monfils to net a hurried backhand volley. Murray won the second set to level the match, but a wild forehand into the tramlines from the world number four gifted Monfils a break in the fifth game of the deciding set and the freely-hitting Frenchman didn’t look back.
“I’ve never beaten Roger,” said Monfils, looking ahead to his semi-final. “Whenever I’ve played him I’ve had opportunities, but I’ve never seized them. Hopefully I’ll have some more chances this time and maybe I’ll try to change the way I play.” Murray, whose third-round win over Marin Cilic the day before finished after midnight, admitted: “I wasn’t expecting to feel great today.
“Getting to bed at three o’clock in the morning the night before a match is not ideal preparation. It’s difficult to come out and play your best tennis.” Llodra during the other quarter-final, eliminated defending champion Novak Djokovic in the previous round by coming from 2-4 down to win the first set against 2006 champion Davydenko before running away with the match in the second.
The 30-year-old left-hander, a member of the French team that tackles Serbia in next month’s Davis Cup final, had never previously gone beyond the third round of a Masters event.