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Monfils Saves 5 M.P. To Stun Federer

Paris, France

Gael Monfils© Getty ImagesGael Monfils defeated Roger Federer for the first time in six meetings.

Frenchman Gael Monfils reached the BNP Paribas Masters final for the second straight year after saving five match points to defeat World No. 2 Roger Federer 7-6(7), 6-7(1), 7-6(4) Saturday in Paris-Bercy.

In a raucous atmosphere at the Palais Omnisports, Paris-born Monfils was lifted by the home support to fight back from a 1-4 deficit in the final set, before saving five match points on his serve in the 12th game. The No. 12 seed then raised his level yet further in the decisive tie-break to clinch a dramatic victory in two hours and 41 minutes.

It was Monfils’ first win in six attempts over 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer; in their five previous meetings he had won only one set off the Swiss player. Monfils has saved seven match points en route to the final of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, having also faced two match points in his third-round win over Fernando Verdasco.

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“I'm happy I won against Rog. He's someone I admire a lot. He's a legend of tennis, ‘the’ legend, and beating him is a beautiful victory. I will remember that for my whole life,” declared Monfils. “And also it happened in very special conditions for me, in Paris, so it's only happiness.

“I was thinking it was a very good experience. This is why you practice all the time. It's to experience those special moments. The crowd was great. They were behind me. Well, you need to dare try something, and I was lucky because I was successful. On those match points I was trying to control myself, otherwise it would have been too difficult.”

In the title match Monfils will face Sweden’s Robin Soderling, who prevented an all-French final by defeating Michael Llodra in three sets earlier in the day. The 24 year old will hope to go one step further than last year, when he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in a third-set tie-break, and is eager to avenge the straight-sets defeat he suffered to Soderling in the Valencia quarter-finals last week.

“The toughest thing for tomorrow is that I want that victory. I know it's not going to be easy, because Robin really killed me last week. I think I'm going to step into the court and put pressure on him as much as I can. I'm at home. I want that victory. It's going to be interesting, let's say.”

Monfils has staked a strong claim for one of the singles spots in the French Davis Cup team, when it faces Serbia in the World Group final next month, after a strong showing during the European indoor swing. He will look to win his second ATP World Tour title of the season, after triumphing in Montpellier (d. Ljubicic) two weeks ago.

It is the fourth time this year that Federer has lost a match having held match points. Against Marcos Baghdatis in the Indian Wells third round Federer squandered three match points, and two weeks later he missed a match point chance in a fourth-round defeat to Tomas Berdych in Miami. In the US Open semi-finals, the Swiss was denied on two match points in a five-set defeat to Novak Djokovic.

Despite the defeat, Federer maintained he was in good form heading into the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in a week’s time. “I feel good. I'm playing well. It was not a bad match today. I'm happy with my performance. Clearly with a victory today I would have had big chances of winning this tournament tomorrow. This is not the case, so now I have to look at the future. I'm going to prepare for London.

"I feel good physically. In a way it is a relief that I was able to finish the tournament in good physical health. I'm fresh mentally, too. This is the most important thing. I'm going to back to Switzerland quickly and I'm going to prepare for London, because London is the great final of the year. I think I have good chances maybe in London for winning." 

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