Federer into 20th consecutive Grand Slam semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/f/fedex-semi.jpg' class='caption'> Getting into a groove at the French Open, Roger Federer is 2 victories away from completing a career Grand Slam and tying Sampras' record for major titles.

Updated: June 03, 2009 16:32 IST
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Getting into a groove at the French Open, Roger Federer is two victories away from completing a career Grand Slam and tying Pete Sampras' record for major titles.

After three consecutive so-so performances, Federer was challenged only fleetingly in the quarter-finals on Wednesday at Roland Garros before beating 11th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-4.

Federer reached the semifinals for the 20th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, extending his own record.

"I felt some pressure before this match," Federer said. "I was very nervous, because I thought it would be very difficult."

He did face two break points in the opening game of the match, and another at 5-5 in the first set _ but saved each of them.

Then, in the tiebreaker, Monfils held a set point at 6-5, but again Federer held steady, and the Frenchman sent a backhand wide to make it 6-all. Two points later _ a service winner and a volley winner by Federer _ the set was over, and so, essentially, was the match.

"Maybe I took too many risks at the beginning," the second-seeded Federer said, "but I was worried about his forehand."

Federer owns 13 Grand Slam singles titles, and the French Open is the only major championship he hasn't won. He lost to Rafael Nadal in each of the past three finals at Roland Garros, as well as in the 2005 semi-finals.

But Nadal is no longer around this year after being upset in the fourth round by Robin Soderling.

Since the start of the 2005 French Open, Federer is 0-4 against Nadal in Paris, 28-0 against everyone else.

Still, Federer was extended to four sets in both the second and third rounds, then needed to overcome a two-set deficit before getting past Tommy Haas in five sets in the fourth round.

"I had problems at the beginning of each match in this tournament, because it often was 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, so I wasn't playing freely," Federer said. "Today is the first match the score wasn't close."

He won 18 of the last 19 points on his serve.

"Today," Monfils said, "he didn't miss a lot."

Federer will play No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro or No. 16 Tommy Robredo for a berth in the final. Soderling faces No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez in the other men's semifinal Friday.

Is Federer the favorite?

"He still has two tough matches if he wants to win, but I think he can do it," said Monfils, who lost to Federer in last year's semifinals in Paris. "He should be very motivated to win, so, yeah, why not?"

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