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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 19:33 UK

Federer battles into French final

FRENCH OPEN FINAL
Coverage: Sunday 7 June, 1400 BST - Live coverage on BBC Two and BBC Sport website (UK users only), text commentary on BBC Sport website/mobiles.

Roger Federer

Highlights - Federer clinches epic semi-final

By Piers Newbery

Roger Federer kept his hopes of landing a first French Open title alive with a dramatic five-set win over fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in the semis.

The Swiss was outplayed for much of the first three sets but fought back to win 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-1 6-4.

Federer, 27, is trying to complete the set of Grand Slam titles and match Pete Sampras's record of 14 major victories by winning in Paris for the first time.

Sweden's Robin Soderling beat Fernando Gonzalez in the first semi-final.

And Federer admitted he had needed to dig deep to edge past the impressive Del Potro.

"I am a bit lucky but I fought - Juan Martin was playing really well," said Federer, who will equal Ivan Lendl's all-time record of 19 Grand Slam finals when he takes to the court on Sunday.

"He came out of the blocks really well, with his serve and his forehand really putting me under pressure. He had the upper hand from the baseline and deserved the lead.

"I can't remember a five set match that I've played that was so moving. It feels great to come through hard matches like these. It is more emotional, more satisfying. And I still feel fine."

With four-time champion Nadal having been despatched by Soderling in the fourth round, the way seemed clear for second seed Federer to become only the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam titles.

606: DEBATE

He went into Friday's second semi-final with a 5-0 record against Del Potro, including a win on clay in Madrid last month, but the 20-year-old has recently established himself as the world number five.

There was no doubt who the Parisian crowd were backing but their support for Federer quickly became less vocal as the Swiss struggled early on.

Del Potro got the first break of serve in game five and Federer looked in disarray two games later when a woeful smash saw him slip 0-40 down, and despite escaping in that game the Swiss could not repeat the trick in game nine.

Some fierce hitting took Del Potro to 0-40 once again, and Federer gave up the set when when he netted a forehand.

The second set was an uneventful affair as both players held serve, with Del Potro looking especially strong as Federer failed to make any impression.

Juan Martin del Potro
Del Potro dominated for much of the opening three sets

At 4-5 and 0-30, the world number two could well have succumbed to the pressure but he fought back to hold and it came down to a tie-break.

And after having little to cheer from the sentimental favourite for two sets, Federer got the crowd going as he dominated to move 6-1 clear and converted his second set point to level.

Any thoughts of a sustained Federer revival were snuffed out as Del Potro broke at the start of the third, missed two more break points in game five and eventually got the double break with some huge forehands in game seven before serving out to love.

Finally, after nearly two-and-a-half hours, Federer earned a break point at 1-0 in the fourth set, but Del Potro took the initiative and forced a backhand error from the retreating Swiss.

In a tense fourth game, Federer battled to deuce and a sublime drop shot forced another break point which he converted when Del Potro went long with a forehand.

The clinical edge to Del Potro's game had disappeared and he gave up the double break in game six with a double fault, allowing Federer to serve out the set free of pressure.

By now the 15,000 spectators on Court Philippe Chatrier were in full voice, chanting "Roger, Roger" at the changeovers, and their man obliged with a break at the start of the fifth set.

I really wanted to be in that final, and now I'm going to have to watch it on TV

Juan Martin del Potro

After being dominated for the first half of the match, Federer was now keeping the 6ft 6in Del Potro constantly on the move with a succession of superb drop shots and angled sliced backhands.

Federer threatened to break again in game five but Del Potro managed to cling on, and he earned two break-back points in the following game with a beautifully judged lob, taking the second with a heavy backhand into the corner to level at 3-3.

With over three hours on the clock - and three games separating both men from a place in the final - Federer made the decisive breakthrough in game seven.

Del Potro recovered from 0-40 to deuce with some magnificent play under pressure, thumping away two mid-court forehand winners, but the Argentine then double faulted on break point number four.

This time Federer was not going to hand back the advantage, and he came through his final two service games to seal victory with a rasping forehand winner after three hours and 28 minutes.

The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Del Potro, who has yet to beat Federer, but the Argentine was able to wish his conqueror well for Sunday's final.

"At the end of the match I congratulated him and wished him luck. I told him everyone wants him to win the title," said Del Potro.

"I wanted to be in the final, but the match escaped me. I'm very sad about it.

"I really wanted to be in that final, and now I'm going to have to watch it on TV."



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see also
French Open day 13 as it happened
05 Jun 09 |  Tennis
Soderling in final after thriller
05 Jun 09 |  Tennis
French Open day 13 pictures
05 Jun 09 |  Tennis
Champion Nadal falls to Soderling
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Nadal stays calm after shock loss
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Order of play
23 May 09 |  Tennis
Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Women's singles draw
28 Jan 10 |  Tennis


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