Federer escapes upset axe vs Haas
() - June 3, 2009 - 12:00am

PARIS – Roger Federer mounted one of the biggest comebacks of his career on Monday when he rallied from a two-set deficit to beat Tommy Haas and reach the French Open quarterfinals.

Less than 24 hours after Rafael Nadal was eliminated, Federer averted another stunner by beating Haas 6-7 (4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam event Federer has yet to win. He has been beaten by Nadal at Roland Garros four years in a row, the past three times in the final. And with the path to the title cleared of his No. 1-ranked nemesis, No. 2 Federer barely avoided a stumble.

“It’s maybe a good sign,” Federer said. “It was a great battle for me, and I’m thrilled to be through and given another chance here.”

The erratic form that has plagued Federer in the past year was again a problem for portions of the first three sets. But with the center-court crowd firmly in his corner, Federer produced a remarkable turnaround – winning nine consecutive games to even the match, before sweeping the final five games.

When he smacked a service winner on match point, the stoic Swiss gave a leap and a scream in celebration, a reflection of what’s at stake. For the fourth year in a row, Federer is trying to become only the sixth man to win all four major championships.

“If he wins here, he’s probably the greatest ever,” Haas said.

Federer’s total of 13 Grand Slam titles is one shy of Pete Sampras’ record, and he’s well aware of the opportunity created by Nadal’s departure.

“It caused a bit of a shock in the locker room,” Federer said. “All the players are a bit relieved. Everybody suddenly sees that things are much more open.”

As was the case because of Nadal’s loss Sunday to Robin Soderling, other results became a footnote.

Serena Williams dispensed with any drama, extending her Grand Slam winning streak to 18 matches by beating Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1, 6-2. It was a straightforward, 53-minute victory, in contrast to Williams’ previous match, when she accused her opponent of cheating and had a coughing fit during a changeover.

Somehow Federer managed to lose the opening set despite winning every service point – 24 in a row – until the tiebreaker. The first break of the match put him ahead 2-1 in the second set, but he gave it back, then hit several nervous points serving at 5-6 to lose that game.

Haas led 4-3 in the pivotal third set and was a point from serving for the match, but Federer hit a forehand winner to launch his comeback.

“Once I hit that forehand to save a break point, I felt that it could be the turning point of the match,” Federer said. “I was really very relieved.” (AP)

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