Federer saves two match points, reaches US Open semifinals

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Federer saves two match points, reaches US Open semifinals
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds up the trophy of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis after a walkover victory due an injury to Switzerland’s Roger Federer in London, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. Federer withdrew due to an injured back. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Switzerland’s Roger Federer shouts out during his singles ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at the O2 Arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Switzerland’s Roger Federer waves to the crowd after announcing his withdrawal from the final match of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, due to injury in London, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. Federer talked to the crowd from the court to say he was sorry but he has a back injury. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka leans on the net during his ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against his compatriot Roger Federer at the O2 Arena in London Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, celebrates his win over Gael Monfils, of France, during the quarterfinal round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. Federer defeated Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Gael Monfils, of France, rests on his racket after losing a point during the fifth set against Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. Federer defeated Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Gael Monfils, right, of France, shakes hands with Roger Federer, of Switzerland, after a quarterfinal in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. Federer won 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Wife Mirka Federer watches her husband Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Coach Stefan Edberg watches Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Father Robert Federer watches his son Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Lindsey Vonn (2nd L Front and Gwen Stefani (2nd R back) watch the match between Gael Monfils of France and Roger Federer of Switzerland during their US Open 2014 men's singles quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 4, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Don Emmert (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Skier Lindsey Vonn attends the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer, of Switzerland, and Gael Monfils, of France, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Anna Wintour, right, editor of Vogue, and actor Hugh Jackman, left, attend the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer, of Switzerland, and Gael Monfils, of France, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour attends Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: New York Red Bulls player Thierry Henry attends Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Wife Mirka Federer watches her husband Roger Federer of Switzerland play against Gael Monfils of France during their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, reacts after winning the fourth set against Gael Monfils, of France, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. Federer won 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Gael Monfils, of France, lies on the court after taking a tumble on a return against Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Gael Monfils, of France, pumps his fist after winning a point against Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, watches a serve to Gael Monfils, of France, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Gael Monfils, of France, watches a serve to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, gives Gael Monfils, of France, a pat on the shoulder after Federer's 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 win in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, delivers the final serve in his win against Gael Monfils, of France, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. Federer won 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, celebrates after defeating Gael Monfils, of France, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 4: Gael Monfils of France returns the ball to Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's singles quarterfinal tennis match on Day 11 of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2014 in New York, United States. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Roger Federer of Switzerland walks on to the court prior to his match against Gael Monfils of France in their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 4: Gael Monfils of France serves to Roger Federer of Switzerland during their men's singles quarterfinal tennis match on Day 11 of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2014 in New York, United States. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Roger Federer, of Switzerland, serves to Gael Monfils, of France, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Gael Monfils of France waves to the crowd after being defeated by Roger Federer of Switzerland in their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Federer defeated Monfils in five sets 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Spectators cheer during a quarterfinal between Roger Federer, of Switzerland, and Gael Monfils, of France, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Roger Federer of Switzerland signs autographs for fans following his victory against Gael Monfils of France in their men's singles quarterfinal match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA)
Musician Gwen Stefani, center, gestures during the quarterfinal match between Roger Federer, of Switzerland, and Gael Monfils, of France, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Clearly frustrated by his play and opponent, Roger Federer whacked his racket on the top of the net after a missed volley. Moments later, he barked at the chair umpire: "What's wrong with you, man?"

Not long after that, Federer found himself in the precarious position of twice being one point from defeat.

Steady as ever, even at 33, Federer held on. Coming all the way back from a two-set deficit, and saving two match points along the way, Federer edged 20th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 on Thursday night to reach the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time since 2011.

Frustrated by Monfils' unpredictable style, flummoxed by the swirling wind, and missing shots he normally makes, Federer faced the two match points while trailing 5-4 in the fourth set.

"When I was down two match points, that's when I wasn't feeling so great anymore," Federer said with a chuckle. "I thought, `This is it. This is the last point, man. Go down fighting. Don't miss an easy shot and let him have it.'"

He got out of that hole, starting a five-game run that put the match in his control for the first time. It helped that Monfils' quality of play dipped, including what wound up being a total of 10 double-faults.

This was the ninth time Federer has won a match after dropping the opening two sets.

"I served well and stayed in the match and somehow turned it around," Federer said. "I was really starting to play better and better as the match went on. It was a great feeling."

Monfils was trying to reach his second career Grand Slam semifinal. Instead, Federer advanced to his 36th, ninth at Flushing Meadows. Five of Federer's record 17 major singles titles have come at the U.S. Open, but he exited in the quarterfinals in 2012, and the fourth round in 2013.

On Saturday, the second-seeded Federer will play 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia. The other semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 10 Kei Nishikori; their quarterfinal victories came Wednesday.

Cilic wasn't allowed to play in last year's U.S. Open, forced to the sideline by a four-month doping suspension that he says he didn't deserve. But Cilic reached the second Grand Slam semifinal of his career, and first since 2010, by beating sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4) Thursday.

"I mean, it was a difficult period. I didn't know when I'm going to start back. But (it) was also (a) good period for me," Cilic said. "I matured a bit more and I was working, day after day."

His quarterfinal ended hours before the other began, and Cilic probably assumed he would wind up facing Federer next.

But that did not seem a certainty through the first 78 minutes of Federer-Monfils. That's how long it took Monfils to shake off a twisted ankle and build a two-set lead, assisted by Federer's 26 unforced errors in that span.

Even that far behind, Federer said, "I still thought the finish line was far for Gael. I knew I could play better tennis."

The air was swirling in the cavernous arena, rippling the players' shirts and the giant American flag atop the stadium. In the early going, Monfils' whiplike forehand was able to cut through the wind.

Monfils is nothing if not one of a kind. In an era where some men, including Federer, have two coaches, Monfils goes without any. He'll admit to tanking points, games or entire sets. He sips sodas during matches, including Thursday. He'll go for a between-the-legs shot when a mundane forehand would do.

As the clock was about to strike 11 p.m., Monfils held his match points as Federer served. On the first, Monfils had an opening for a backhand passing shot, but it flew long.

On the second, Federer produced a forehand winner, and the crowd roared.

After Federer held there for 5-all, Monfils had a letdown, double-faulting twice in a row to get broken. Soon enough they were in the fifth set - which began with another break by Federer.

By then, he was on his way.

"You start feeling better, because you feel probably he's a bit low right now after such a tough fourth set," Federer said.

Make no mistake, though. This was not easy. The turnaround might not have been possible for Federer a year ago, when he was dealing with a bad back and trying to figure out whether he should switch to a larger racket head.

But now Federer, however old, is approaching his skills of old. He got to the finals at his previous four tournaments - including a loss to Djokovic in Wimbledon's title match in July - the first such run by a 30-something since Ivan Lendl in 1990. One more victory, and Federer's final streak will stretch to five in a row.

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