Semi-final just a warm-up for Federer intentions


Paris : Swiss no.1 Roger Federer remains nonplussed by his appearance in a fourth straight semi-final at the French Open – but so does inexperienced opponent Gael Monfils, playing at this stage of a major for the first time Friday.

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“It’s going to be a big match, but “the” match is not a semi-final,” said Monfils, who saved home pride as he put a French player into a second consecutive Grand Slam semi after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga five months ago in Australia.

“It’s probably the most important match in my career so far.”

Federer, winner of a dozen majors and looking to round out his collection of the big four by adding Roland Garros, has beaten the youngster twice already this season, including on clay at Monte Carlo in April.

The Swiss is playing for history and a chance at facing the winner of the second semi in Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the main rivals nipping at his heels as number one.

“It’s always a great pleasure being in the last four,” said the well-spoken Swiss. “It’s really where it gets most interesting.

“This is usually where I hope to play my best, and especially here at the French, which one is supposed to maybe be the toughest one for me”

Federer has stalled in the last two Paris finals against Nadal.

“To make four (semis) in a row is a great accomplishment, but this year I’m obviously particularly aiming for the title,” added Federer. “I hope it’s not going to stop here.”

Djokovic and Nadal had a hot rivalry going, with the Spaniard holding a 7-3 edge after splitting with the Serbian already this season at Masters events in Miami and the clay of Hamburg.

Djokovic is riding a Serbian wave which has put compatriots Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic into the women’s final four.

“I don’t want to get into the history book,” said the 21-year-old. “My priority goal is to keep on winning, keep on playing well, and then just trying to get as far as I can in the tournament.

“Winning the Grand Slam title is, of course, much more important.”

Nadal has never lost at Roland Garros, holding a phenomenal 26-0 record at the venue.

“In this period of the year when he’s so dominant in last couple of years on this surface, he’s never lost a match on the center court in the French Open, he’s the favourite,” admitted the Serb.

Nadal, like his opponent, is not letting himself get too far ahead of his most immediate challenge.

And he laid down a subtle warning:”I’m improving all the week during the tournament, playing better and better every match.

And as far as levelling with Bjorn Borg on a possible four straight titles should it come to pass?

“That doesn’t matter, it’s no more motivation for me. For me, the only motivation is play good here and try to win title here in Roland Garros.”