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Wednesday, Aug 05th

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ATP World Tour Finals: Federer outlasts Del Potro to book semifinal spot; Djokovic defeats Gasquet

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If Roger Federer was going to make it to the semifinal for the 11th time in 12 appearances at the World Tour Finals he needed to surmount the far from insignificant obstacle of Juan Martin Del Potro. Digging himself holes in every set did not help his cause but he refused to give up. Fighting back from a set and a break down and another break down in the final set, the Swiss Maestro managed to somehow find a way to claw his way back and completed the Houdini act 4/6, 7/6(2), 7/5 to the delight of the appreciative crowd here at the O2 Arena in London. Federer though will have less than 24 hours to recover from this two and a half hour epic as he faces long-time rival Rafael Nadal in the first semi final tomorrow. Federer has defeated Nadal every one of the four times they have clashed at this tournament but Nadal holds a formidable 21-10 advantage overall.

In the evening match Novak Djokovic maintained his unbeaten record in the Group against Richard Gasquet 7/6(5), 4/6, 6/3. Gasquet put on an inspired display particularly in an exhilarating second set but Djokovic was able to strike at the right times to maintain his supremacy over the Frenchman.The defending champion next plays Stanislas Wawrinka in tomorrow’s semifinal.

Federer was put on the back foot almost before he had even really got going in the match. A loosener of an opening game saw him ratchet up 3 errors to gift Del Potro the break. He nearly broke back in the next game but further errors allowed Del Potro to consolidate the break. Roger seemed to have settled into his service games but at 1-3 40/0 a combination of some outright hitting by Del Potro and some lame Federer errors saw him lose 5 straight points to go down two breaks. Del Potro soon consolidated to go up 5-1 and Federer needed something special just to get him going in the match. Federer‘s response was exceptional – 10 straight points and 12 of the next 13 saw him recover to 5-4 and put the pressure on the Argentine to serve it out. He generated another brace of chances including one with a fantastic backhand lob on the dead run but Del Potro snuffed out the chances with brutal serves and eventually forced Federer to hit wide on set point to take the first set 6-4.

It was a setback for Federer, but one that he’s overcome in the past but in the third game of the second set, he played a loose game to drop serve and fall behind. The errors continued in the next game and Del Potro duly consolidated the break to go ahead 3-1. Federer was now staring down the barrel while Del Potro, who was busy bombing them down in excess of a 130, was now just three service holds away from a spot in the semifinal. Federer though was not going to bow out without a fight. A brace of winners and a Del Potro error gave him 0/40 and the Argentine double faulted to allow Federer to restore parity. Both men then held serve with minimal fuss to take the set to a tiebreak. Federer now was playing superbly and the tiebreak has always been a scenario in which he excels. He claimed the early minibreak with a backhand volley at full stretch to go up 2-1 and vitally followed it up with an ace and a service winner to distance himself from Juan Martin. Under pressure, Del Potro put another backhand wide on his serve and Federer proceeded to close out the tie break 7-2 with an ace to level the match.

Today was a day where Roger soared at that rarefied level that sometimes he alone can attain, occasionally plunged the depths that left him both bemused and frustrated. It was the depths that he proceeded to plunge to in the opening stages of the decider as he played a decidedly poor service game to hand the early break to Del Potro who then proceeded to secure a 3-0 lead. Once again left with a mountain to climb, Federer responded with the will of the champion he is as he once again stepped up to the plate and proceeded to begin his comeback with a love hold on his serve. Time was running out but Federer fought back with everything he had, scrambling defence, stretching for the volleys and the smashes and forcing Del Potro in to the errors. It paid off as he broke Del Potro back in the 5th game before consolidating the break coming through a tough hold to level the set at 3-3. Much like the second set both men continued to hold and the match seemed headed for a probable deciding tie break. But at 5-5, Federer struck as a couple of well constructed points gave him 15/40. A sweetly struck forehand return forced another error as Federer got the crucial break to lead 6-5. Del Potro gave it one final try as he forced a break point as Federer served for the match only to squander it with a netted backhand. A smash gave Federer the advantage and he aced Del Potro to end a high quality match and contest with an exclamation point.

Novak Djokovic went into his match against Richard Gasquet with a 9-1 H2H record with the lone loss coming at this very tournament in 2007. And Richard Gasquet put in an inspired performance in an attempt to end his season on a high. Particularly after the second set, it appeared that the Frenchman might just have a chance, but Djokovic was not to be denied taking the contest in 3 sets to take his 70th match win of the year.

Final Scores:

R.Federer d J.M.Del Potro 4/6, 7/6(2), 7/5

N.Djokovic d Richard Gasquet 7/6(5), 4/6, 6/3