Paris, June 1: Roger Federer was the last man to beat Novak Djokovic on a tennis court, and he can be the next one as well.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion set up a delectable semifinal match against the second-seeded Serb by defeating Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (3) Tuesday at the French Open. If he beats Djokovic on Friday, it will end the two-time major champion's perfect season and 43-match winning streak.
“It's not the driving force behind this match, to be honest. For me, the plan is trying to get a step further and into the finals of the French Open,” said Federer, the 2009 champion at Roland Garros. “At the end of the day, that's, for me, the big picture, and that's why I entered the French Open. It wasn't to stop Novak.”
Defending champion Francesca Schiavone and No. 11 Marion Bartoli also reached the semifinals Tuesday, while Andy Murray advanced to the quarterfinals by finishing off Viktor Troicki in a five-set match played over two days.
On Wednesday, Murray will play again, this time for a spot in the semifinals, when he faces Juan Ignacio Chela. Five-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal will play two-time finalist Robin Soderling. In the women's tournament, Maria Sharapova is to play Andrea Petkovic and Australian Open finalist Li Na is to face Victoria Azarenka.
Federer has not dropped a set in five matches at this year's French Open. But against Djokovic, he'll be facing the man who eliminated him from the past two majors at the semifinal stage.
He'll also be up against a man who is 41-0 in 2011 and is enjoying a 43-match winning streak dating back to Nov. 27, when Federer beat Djokovic at the ATP Finals in London. With one more win, Djokovic can also assure himself of the No. 1 ranking.
“I know he has a lot on the line, which we all know about,” Federer said. “I have been there myself before in 2004 when I was going for world No. 1 against (Juan Carlos Ferrero) in Australia in the semis of a Grand Slam, as well. So it's a similar situation.”
With a victory over Federer, Djokovic can equal John McEnroe's Open era record of 42 straight wins to start a season. And with three more, he would match Guillermo Vilas' record 46-match winning streak.
“A big question remains: ‘How long can you keep it up?”' Federer said. “I said it a couple weeks ago. It's just hard day in and day out to be asked the questions, ‘How many more wins can you get?'
“You would just like to, you know, not talk about it. Just go out there and do it over and over again.”
Schiavone is also trying to do something again.
A year after she became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title, she is one match from making it back to the final after beating 14th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.
But things didn't start off so well on Tuesday; she was two points from defeat in the second set.
“I never stopped believing in what I could do,” said Schiavone, who will play Bartoli in the semifinals. “I started too slow, absolutely too slow. But in the end I felt better.”
Bartoli, eccentricities and all, advanced by beating 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (4), 6-4.
The 11th-seeded Frenchwoman, only the fourth woman from her country to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros in the Open era, psychs herself up by hopping around between points and swinging her racket while awaiting serves.
“It's really to stay focused on what I have to do,” Bartoli said in explaining her quirks. “It's really important for me to relieve the pressure ... and really focus on myself and what I need to do.” AP