ATP World Tour Finals 2013: Roger Federer sets up semi-final with Rafael Nadal after coming from behind to beat Juan Martin del Potro

The former world number one progresses as runner up to Novak Djokovic

the o2 arena

Roger Federer has won more matches than anyone at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals but few can have been more dramatic than his 44th victory here at the year-ending championships.

Needing to beat Juan Martin del Potro to reach the semi-finals for the 11th time in 12 appearances, the 32-year-old Swiss repeatedly had to dig himself out of trouble before winning 4-6, 7-6, 7-5.

Federer, who was 3-0 down in the third set, may have had his least successful season for 12 years but he showed that the old magic is still there, even if we see it less frequently these days. The world No 7 faces Rafael Nadal in a semi-final to be savoured this afternoon before Novak Djokovic – a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Richard Gasquet – takes on Stanislas Wawrinka.

The capacity 17,500 crowd, who were overwhelmingly behind Federer, were treated to the best match of the week in a winner-takes-all shoot-out for the last semi-final place. It was a match that summed up Federer's year. There were times when he looked a spent force, frustrated by his mistakes, but others when he was as majestic as ever.

"I fought back the whole match," Federer said afterwards. "I was really getting angry at myself, wondering how I could just play a loose game, wondering why this was happening.

"I wasn't in many of Juan Martin's service games, so I felt I would probably get just one more chance to break back [in the third set]. That's exactly what happened. Once on even terms, I was able to play a little bit more freely. For the first time I almost felt like I was in the lead. It was a great finish. I was very happy. To get the victory was a great feeling."

Del Potro went 5-1 up in the opener before Federer embarked on a masterclass. The Swiss won 16 out of the next 20 points and went within a point of levelling at 5-5 after a rally of sheer brilliance.

Under attack, Federer hit an exquisite sliced backhand lob into a corner and followed it up with a winning volley. Del Potro, nevertheless, served his way out of trouble to take the set.

The world No 5 again drew first blood in the second set, only to play his worst game to allow Federer to break back for 3-3.

The Swiss went on to play an excellent tie-break, clinching it 7-2 with an ace. Once again magic was followed by mediocrity as two woeful Federer forehands enabled Del Potro to make the first break of the decider, but the former world No 1 clawed his way back to 3-3 from 3-0 down.

By now the pair were playing some breathtaking points. In one, Del Potro retrieved a lob with a through-the-legs "hot dog" before Federer, chasing another lob, hit a wonderfully improvised overhead with his back to the net and then won the point with a forehand cross-court pass.

At 5-5 Federer made the final break, forcing Del Potro into a mistake with a splendid return. Federer saved one break point in the next game before sealing victory with an ace, upon which he thrust his arms in the air and beat his chest in celebration. There is clearly life in the old dog yet.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen