Paris, 14 November 2010 | AFP
Gael Monfils will meet Robin Soderling in the final of the ATP Paris Masters after stunning top seed Roger Federer on Saturday..
The Frenchman saved five match points to shock the former world number one 7-6(7) 6-7(1) 7-6(4), after Soderling had edged Michael Llodra in an equally epic tie.
Monfils fought back from 4-1 down in the third set to reach the final at the Bercy arena for the second year in succession, following his defeat by Novak Djokovic last year.
He will bid to win his first Masters title against fourth seed Soderling, who is also yet to win a Masters event, after the Swede ended unseeded Llodra’s fairytale run with a 6-7(0) 7-5 7-6(6) victory.
Federer, who is still to reach a Paris Masters final, was guilty of several uncharacteristic errors when the match appeared his for the taking.
“There were two pretty extraordinary matches today,” said Federer.
“We could have had a Llodra-Federer final and it turned into a Monfils-Soderling final.
“What’s disappointing is that I was in control of the situation with a break up in the third set.
“Of course it hurts. On one of the match points I had the whole court open and I couldn’t put it in, a bit like Llodra in his match.”
Soderling had to save three match points at 5-6 down in the third set, with Llodra notably netting a forehand when the Swede was at the net and the court was at his mercy.
Llodra had never previously gone beyond the third round at a Masters event but he fought back to level from 5-2 down in the decisive tie-break, as a roller-coaster encounter reached crescendo after two hours and 49 minutes.
“My God, tennis is frustrating!” said 30-year-old Llodra, who along with Monfils is a member of the France team set to take on Serbia in the Davis Cup final on December 3-5.
“But there you go, I have nothing to reproach myself for. I tried, I gave everything, I wasn’t far away.”
Despite the pain of defeat, the left-hander could console himself with the satisfaction of having produced arguably the best tennis of his career which included wins over world number three Djokovic and world number 11 Nikolay Davydenko en route to the semifinals.
Soderling’s victory sends the 26-year-old into the first Masters final of his career and, after final defeats at Roland Garros in 2009 and 2010, he will hope for better luck on the other side of the city.
“I hope that this will be the one,” said Soderling, who declared himself “happy and definitely lucky to have got through”.