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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, August 12, 2017

 
Roger Federer

"When I did come forward again I played pretty clean and that’s good signs for the final," said Roger Federer after sweeping Robin Haase in the Montreal semifinals.

Photo credit: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty

Before Roger Federer stepped on court, the second seed was already flexing his tactical muscles.

Standing behind coach Ivan Ljubicic in the player lounge, Federer and coach were engrossed in an on-line chess match against a cyber foe before today’s Rogers Cup semifinals.

Watch: Shapovalov Keeps The Dream Alive

Transferring his strategic vision on court, Federer made all the right moves dissecting Robin Haase, 6-3, 7-6 (5), to extend his winning streak to 16 matches and roll into the Montreal final.

The two-time Rogers Cup champion raised his record to 35-2 on the season surging into his third Masters final of the season, including his sweep of the sunshine doubles in Indian Wells and Montreal earlier this year.

Though he’s played some of his most dynamic tennis on North American hard courts, the five-time US Open champion has yet to lift the title trophy in Montreal.

A decade ago, Federer fell to Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (2), 2-6, 7-6 (2) in the Montreal final.

Tomorrow, he will contest his sixth final in eight tournaments against either fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev or Canadian wild card Denis Shapovalov.

“I’m very excited to be back in the finals,” Federer told ESPN’s Brad Gilbert afterward. “It’s one of the tournaments I’ve never won before. I won the Canadian Open in ’04 and ’06, but they were both in Toronto as it always alternates. Montreal, I didn’t play so often. I missed it quite a few times.

“So to be back in the finals, it’s great. A bit surprising, to be quite honest, because I hadn’t practiced much. I came from vacation, did some fitness, saw how I was feeling and said ‘You know what, I practiced so much the last year, let’s go play some matches.’ It’s a big bonus right now and I hope I can play as free as I have so far in the finals tomorrow.”

Earlier in the week, Federer said the balls were flying so much his strategy was “to aim at the net.”

Today, he took charge at net winning 16 of 18 trips to net including a couple of rapid-fire exchanges. Federer hit 28 winners compared to 17 for Haase, who played a solid match saving four of six break points and staying in step with the 19-time Grand Slam champion in the second set.

Federer hit nine aces won 26 of 30 first-serve points. 

“I wish I could have maybe done a bit more of it,” Federer said of his assertive net play. “But I must say Robin played aggressive himself. He served well in clutch moments so there was not that many rallies out there because when you get the first serve in close to the lines it’s, you know, 200 kph, it’s tough to find your way to the net. When I did come forward again I played pretty clean and that’s good signs for the final.”




Contesting his 59th career Masters semifinal against an opponent playing his first, Federer reeled off seven straight points powering to a triple-break point lead in the second game. Haase erased four break points, but scattered a backhand trying to change direction to face a fifth break point.

Drawing the Dutchman in, Federer flashed a pass that rattled Haase’s racquet breaking for 2-0.

A double fault and net cord put Federer in a triple break point bind. He netted a forehand capping a sloppy game to surrender serve for just the fifth time in the tournament.

You know you’re in trouble when you face six break points in your first two service games. Unable to stretch the Wimbledon champion, Haase tried hitting flatter, but found the net with a forehand as Federer earned the third consecutive break.

Then Federer opened up the skills school shrewdly nudging a half-volley over net on a second serve-and-volley, stamping a love hold for 4-1.




Twisting his fourth ace out wide, Federer wrapped the opening set in 27 minutes. The second-seeded Swiss sealed three of his first five service games with aces, served 61 percent and won 12 of 14 points played on his first serve in the set.

Thirty-six minutes into the match, Haase earned his biggest ovation of the day. When a fan yelled “Come on Roger!” before he was about to serve, Haase, paused, looked to the stands and replied “My name is Robin” drawing a sustained cheer.




Aside from engaging fans, Haase hung tough, mixing the height of his shots effectively in the second set.

Nearly untouchable on serve, Federer flew threw a three-ace game in about a minute leveling at 2-all. The lanky Dutchman grew stronger on serve as the set progressed. Haase had won 14 of 18 first-serve points by the time he threw down a love hold for 5-4.




Federer made a push in the 11th game, but Haase, mixing in the serve-and-volley at times, played a clever game pumping an ace for 6-5.

Whacking a wild backhand wide, Haase gifted the mini break to open the tie break. Zapping his ninth ace out wide, Federer went up 3-0 at the 70-minute mark.

Ladling a slice backhand into net, Haase was groaning and pinching his eyes like a man suffering a migraine facing a 1-4 deficit.

Successive Federer errors threw the Dutchman a lifeline and he pulled it hard slamming an ace wide then stretching a slider serve for 5-4.

The two-time champion answered with a crunching second serve into the hip and a firm “come on!” gaining match point.

On the ninth shot of the exchange, Haase shanked a forehand off the frame, Federer raised his arms through to his fourth final in Canada.


 

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