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Fan favorite Roger Federer keeps adding to mystique

Roger Federer reacts against Gael Monfils during a

Roger Federer reacts against Gael Monfils during a men's singles quarterfinal at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament on Thursday, September 4, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Roger Federer is wearing out everything but his welcome at the U.S. Open. Thursday night's quarterfinal victory over Gael Monfils summed it up.

Storming the net, refusing to go away after being down by two sets and two match points, mostly chipping away at Monfils' self-belief and Monfils' strategical command in the fourth set, Federer emerged with a five-set victory and his ninth Open semifinal appearance but first since 2011.

However central Monfils' meltdown was at the end, this familiar story of Federer's longevity continues, and neither he nor the Open fans, clearly in his corner again Thursday night, ever appear to tire of it.

"I mean, New Yorkers, there is nobody like New Yorkers," said Federer, who argued that the fans mostly just wanted the match to keep going regardless of who won. "Still, I felt very warm support . . . and this stadium here is phenomenal."

On Saturday, the second-seeded Federer will meet No. 14 Marin Cilic of Croatia in the second men's semifinal after No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces No. 10 Kei Nishikori of Japan.

Djokovic has performed wonderfully through five matches, but this has been Federer's tournament. Federer's summer, really, since his runner-up finish to Djokovic at Wimbledon signaled his recovery from last year's back problems and his growing conviction that he could add to his record 17 major-tournament titles.

Federer acknowledged that with his back to the wall Thursday night, "you hope to get a bit lucky" and added, "Being down match point, you're so close to leaving the court and head hanging down and going to take a shower and going to do press and all that stuff, which is so annoying after you've lost.

"All this stuff goes through your mind. It's hard to block it out, and you don't have that much time to. You're like, 'OK, let me try and hit a good serve. Let's hope it works . . . ' "

Monfils contributed mightily to his own demise with costly double faults. But he was more than willing to appreciate Federer's ability to survive.

"That's why he's Roger Federer, because he change so many times," Monfils said. "He started with chipping very low. I think I handled it good.

"So then he stick with longer points. It was 50-50. And then he try to come to the net very often. It was a bit better for him. Then suddenly he start to mix everything. That's why he's the greatest player, because he can do everything."

And, as if in some movie, right on cue.

New York Sports