Monfils drops Federer in Paris semis

Gael Monfils saved five match points to beat top-seeded Roger Federer 7-6 (7), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4) and reach the Paris Masters final against Robin Soderling.

Soderling saved three match points before overcoming Michael Llodra of France 6-7 (0), 7-5, 7-6 (6).

Monfils faced five match points in the 12th game of the final set before forcing the tiebreaker with an ace.

Federer shanked a forehand to give Monfils two match points, and the Frenchman converted the first with a service winner.

"He’s someone I admire a lot," Monfils said about Federer. "He’s a legend of tennis, THE legend, and beating him is a beautiful victory. I will remember it for my whole life."

Federer had a 5-0 record against Monfils before their semifinal.

In the first tiebreaker, Federer fired an ace at 6-5 down to erase a set point then hit a forehand winner for a 7-6 lead. But Monfils replied with a service winner to level at 7-7 before a wide service return from the Australian Open champion gave Monfils a set point that he converted when Federer netted a forehand.

Federer bounced back by winning five straight points to take the second set.

In the third, Federer broke for a 2-0 lead on an unforced error from Monfils.

"I guess I had control over it in the third, went a break up," Federer said. "That’s a disappointment there. It’s a tough match to lose."

Federer dropped serve in the seventh game with a wide forehand and Monfils snapped a backhand winner to level at 4-4.

"What really made me believe I could win is that key moment with that forehand where he gave me the break point," Monfils said.

Despite the defeat, Federer remained upbeat about the end of his season.

"In a way it is a relief that I was able to finish the tournament in good physical health," Federer said. "I’m fresh mentally, too.

"I’m going to go back to Switzerland quickly and I’m going to prepare for London (ATP Finals) because London is the great final of the year. I think I have good chances maybe of winning in London."

The 12th-seeded Monfils or the fourth-seeded Soderling will win his first Masters title on Sunday.

Soderling faced three match points in the 12th game of the decider, but raced to the net each time, hitting two backhand volleys and forcing Llodra to net a forehand pass.

The French Open finalist converted his second match point with a forehand winner.

"I know now that even if I don’t play my best tennis, I can still win matches," Soderling said. "Tennis is a very mental sport. It’s the mental thing that is going to decide a lot of matches. I’m a better player now compared to a couple of years ago."