Melzer upsets Federer in straight sets
Although they are the same age and have been playing on the ATP tour for 12 years together, Jurgen Melzer had to wait until last year to play Roger Federer. Then he met him three times in five months and failed to win a set.
Friday, in increasingly windy conditions on the Cote d’Azur, the Austrian lefthander improved that lop-sided record by beating the man he calls “the greatest player who ever lived” 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.
Federer had looked at the top of his game while winning his first two matches here and, to be fair, he did not play badly this time out. But Melzer, who was a surprise semifinalist in the French Open last year where he upset Novak Djokovic, played a near faultless match, choosing the right moment to attack and remaining solid in defense.
“Without sounding cocky, when I lost to Roger at the U.S. Open last year, the luck was not on my side on key points,” Melzer said. “ I thought, 'OK, luck is going to turn.' It did today. I had a few shots on the line, a few bad bounces that were going my way. You need that to beat Roger. He is such a great tennis player.”
Melzer also pointed out how well he played on break points. Federer, in fact, had seven of them but couldn’t manage to grab one. The wind, which arrived in sudden gusts, started to affect the play at the start of the second set but Federer wasn’t using that as an excuse.
“Even in the wind, I had chances to come back into the match,” Federer said. “Look, I thought he did well. He played aggressive and mixed it up, played the way he was supposed to.”
Federer said he will return to Switzerland now to get some practice before going to Madrid to get acclimatized to the altitude. “The whole time this month, it is really important to work on all aspects of my game, really, and to get physically and mentally fit for a tough stretch ahead of us with Madrid, Rome, the French, Halle and Wimbledon. It’s quite something, so you better be ready.”
Melzer will now play David Ferrer in his first ATP Masters Series semifinal following the Spaniard’s 6-3, 6-3 victory over Serbian Davis Cup star Victor Troicki.
Ferrer appeared to be at his impenetrable best but Melzer is looking forward to the challenge.
“I won the last two matches against him and basically I killed him in three at Roland Garros last year,” said Melzer, who is likely to rise to No. 8 in the world next week. “This helps the confidence going into such a match. I mean, obviously, I can lose because he’s an unbelievable clay court player. But I will try my best.”
The wind had subsided a little by the time Rafael Nadal appeared to play Ivan Ljubicic, the Croat who has lived and trained in Monaco most of his adult life after escaping from Bosnia as a teenager. But conditions probably wouldn’t have made much difference, either way. Nadal, with six consecutive Monte Carlo titles under his belt, can beat most people any way he wants here and proceeded to demolish Ljubicic 6-1, 6-3.
Andy Murray continued to make his recent slump -- no wins in four consecutive tournaments -- seem like a distant memory, outplaying Portuguese qualifier Frederico Gil 6-2, 6-1 to reach the semifinal here for the second time in three years.
Once again, Murray will find Nadal barring his way to the final and he has no illusions about the size of the task facing him. “Basically I will have to play one of the best matches of my life to beat him,” he said. “I always enjoy playing Rafa and the second set of our match here two years ago had some great points, especially in the tie break. So it is good for me to have played him here before. But obviously he is at his most comfortable on clay because it was the surface he grew up on. It’s just a great challenge for me.”
Murray has beaten Nadal four times in 13 meetings, including in the semifinal of the US Open. He also pushed the Spaniard to the limits in a thrilling semifinal of the ATP World Finals in London last November -- a duel that many people felt produced the best match of the entire 2010 season. But that was indoors. This will be on clay, where Rafa, who will be watched by Prince Albert, remains king.