There were several games during Roger Federer’s straight-set, 87-minute demolition of Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open on Wednesday night that illustrate the Swiss star’s continued — or better yet, resurrected — brilliance.
But one stands out above the rest.
It was the second game of the third set, with Gasquet serving, already down 6-3, 6-3, 1-0. Federer, a veritable Oil of Olay ad for age-defying his 34 years, cracked an inside-out forehand return winner so far out of his opponent’s grasp that Gasquet simply stared blankly at the spot on the court where the ball flew by him.
Federer closed out the game, yet another break of serve, with another unreturnable forehand return, one that skidded right along the sideline nowhere near the Frenchman, who, by that time, seemed simply to want to get off the court without having his wallet picked from his pocket.
Federer, who will now play his countryman, reigning French Open champ Stan Wawrinka in Friday’s semifinals, has been so dominant during this U.S. Open — he has not lost a set in five matches and has dropped serve just twice in his last 118 service games — that even his coach, two-time U.S. Open champ (1991-92) Stefan Edberg, was left shaking his head after the match.
Stan Wawrinka has dropped just one set in the U.S. Open, to American Donald Young in the round of 16.
And this was as Edberg was shaking hands with another Federer fan, Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper, just outside the player locker room minutes after the match.
To reach his sixth U.S. Open final, and first since 2009, Federer will have to be equally impressive against Wawrinka, who has dropped just one set, to American Donald Young in the round of 16.
Wawrinka, who cruised past South African Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals, has lost to Federer in 13 of their 16 meetings — and has never beaten him on hard courts — but did get the best of him the last time they played, in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the French Open in June.
Waiting at the top of the men’s draw are top-seeded Novak Djokovic and defending U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic. Cilic, the ninth seed from Croatia, has been forced to five sets twice during this fortnight, in the third round by 56th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin from Kazakhstan, and in the quarterfinals against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Cilic has never defeated Djokovic in 13 career meetings dating back to 2008.
0 Times Stan Wawrinka has beaten Roger Federer on hard courts
Over the past two years, Federer has changed his rackets, strings, coach and on-court tactics, adding a bold return-and-charge style that was particularly effective against Djokovic in the final of the U.S. Open Series event in Cincinnati two weeks ago, a match Federer won in straight sets. He will likely test Wawrinka with the same trick.
“I hope so, I really do,” the second-seeded Federer said when asked if it will take an extraordinary performance to beat him right now. “But I believe Stan can bring it. That’s my No. 1 focus, that I make it as hard as possible for him to beat me.”
U.S. Open men’s semifinals
4 p.m. Friday, ESPN
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 9 Marin Cilic
No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 5 Stan Wawrinka