Paris - Gael Monfils stunned top seed Roger
Federer 7-6 (9/7), 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/4) to reach the ATP Paris Masters
final on Saturday, after Robin Soderling had edged Michael Llodra in an
equally epic tie.
Monfils, the French 12th seed, 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
The Frenchman 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),
7-5, 7-6 (8/6) victory.
Monfils had lost all five of his previous
meetings with world number two Federer, but he took a well contested
first set when the Swiss superstar netted a forehand at 7-8 down in the
The second set was every bit as tight as the first, but
Federer managed to level the match after sweeping his way imperiously
through the tie-break.
The game appeared up for Monfils in the
third set as he fell 4-1 down, but the world number 14, roared on by a
typically boisterous Bercy crowd, dug deep to see off five match points
and scrap his way into the final.
"I went to the limits of myself," said a jubilant and exhausted Monfils.
feel better and better as the tournament goes on. I ran out of juice a
little bit at the start of the third set but the fans were there, they
pushed me and I kept believing."
Federer, who is still to reach a
Paris Masters final, was guilty of several uncharacteristic errors when
the match appeared his for the taking and must now steel himself for an
assault on the year-end ATP World Tour Finals in London.
"There were two pretty extrordinary matches today," said Federer.
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."
two-time French Open finalist 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.
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
"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 and even though I'm disappointed, there's still a great
opportunity in the Davis Cup final."
Despite the pain of defeat,
the left-hander could console himself with the satisfaction of having
produced arguably the best tennis of his career.
beaten world number three Djokovic and world number 11 Nikolay Davydenko
en route to the semi-finals, he thrilled the Bercy crowd with his
throwback style on Saturday.
His game at the net was particularly
impressive and some spectacular volleys enabled him to whitewash
Soderling in the first-set tie-break, before the Swede drew level after
securing the decisive break in the second set.
treatment on blisters in the decider but still had the strength to hit
back from 4-2 down to force the tie-break.
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".
Robin Soderling (SWE x4) bt Michael Llodra (FRA) 6-7 (0/7), 7-5, 7-6 (8/6)
Gael Monfils (FRA x12) bt Roger Federer (SUI x1) 7-6 (9/7), 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/4)