Federer swatted as struggling Rafter is stung into action

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Patrick Rafter was stung into continuing his run at the Gerry Weber Open when he twice came back from the brink of defeat to beat Roger Federer in a battle of two players who should do well at Wimbledon.

Rafter won a high quality match 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 and today plays the Chelsea-based Fabrice Santoro in the semi-finals. In the other semi, the top seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who yesterday had to play three tie-breaks against Nicolas Escude, plays the Swede Thomas Johansson.

Rafter can put his continuing presence in the tournament down to the ace he served to save match point in the second set tie-break. Yet while coming back from match point down is always noteworthy, the turnaround came early in the second set.

After dropping the first, the Australian went a break down in the first game of the second as Federer's brilliant backhand threatened to curtail the No 2 seed's practice for Wimbledon.

But then, as Federer prepared to serve at 2-1, Rafter was stung into action by an insect which seemed to lodge inside his shirt. He took the shirt off at the back of the court to make sure the bug was not still there, causing a delay of a couple of minutes. "Something bit me on the neck," he said afterwards, "but I never found it."

Federer suggested the incident might have been calculated to disrupt his rhythm. "It's possible it could have been deliberate," he said. "I'm sure there was something in his shirt, but whether it was a bee or a beetle is hard to say. But I don't want to lay all the blame on that."

Whether calculated or not, Federer immediately played his first bad game of the match and dropped serve for 2-2.

The Swiss, who looks the finished article on grass but at 19 may still be a shade inexperienced to survive seven matches at Wimbledon, should still have won, having been 5-2 up in the second set tie-break before having match point.

But after a Rafter lob opened up the court for the forehand which levelled the match, the Wimbledon runner-up gained in confidence, and he won the match on his eighth ace to take the final set tie-break 7-4.

"If I'd lost I'd have walked off and said it was a good match," said Rafter. "Roger played very well, and I played nearly as well as I can. It went my way today, but those kind of matches can go either way. Roger was better than me for a good set and a half, and even at the end we were still level pegging."