Top-ranked Roger Federer needed five match points to beat Spanish qualifier Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7 (2), 7-5 Friday, and Andy Roddick was eliminated by French teenager Gael Monfils in straight sets at the Rome Masters.
Andy Roddick of U.S. reacts at the end of his quarter final tennis match against Gael Monfils of France on the central court at the Rome Masters, May 12, 2006. [AP]
Federer will face David Nalbandian in the semifinals. Nalbandian, ranked No. 3 and going for his second straight title, defeated 6-foot-5 Mario Ancic of Croatia 6-3, 6-3 in another quarterfinal.
Rafael Nadal beat 10th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez 6-4, 6-3 in the other half of the draw, to extend his winning streak on clay to 51 matches.
The 19-year-old Spaniard can match Guillermo Vilas' Open-era record 53-match winning streak on the surface if he successfully defends his title on Sunday.
Nadal will face Monfils, who reached his first Masters Series semifinal by eliminating the fifth-seeded Roddick 6-2, 6-3.
Monfils was the No. 1 ranked junior player in 2004, winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon junior tournaments.
After he jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, Roddick took a medical time out and had his right arm and shoulder area treated.
Monfils also appeared to suffer an injury, rolling his ankle in the second set. He quickly shook it off, though, and won the match in just 1 hour, 10 minutes.
Federer's opponent, Almagro, is one of the tour's most improved players, climbing from a No. 111 ranking at the end of last season to No. 54. He won his first career title in Valencia last month and reached the semifinals in Barcelona.
"He's going to be a tough player to beat at the French," Federer said of the next Grand Slam, which begins May 28.
Nicolas Almagro of Spain eyes the ball the during his quarterfinal tennis match against Roger Federer of Switzerland on the central court at the Rome Masters May 12, 2006. [Reuters]
Federer has lost two matches all year, both to Rafael Nadal, whom he could face again in the Rome final. Nadal was to play Fernando Gonzalez later in the day, aiming for his 51st straight win on clay. He can match Guillermo Vilas' Open-era record 53-match winning streak on the surface if he successfully defends his Rome title.
Almagro ripped baseline winners as Federer struggled to hold serve in the 2-hour, 33-minute match.
"I'm prepared for a three-hour match, I have to be," Federer said. "Of course, a lot of my matches don't go that long, but you have to be ready for the unexpected. I got lucky today in a great match."
After winning the first set comfortably, Federer served for the second at 5-4 and double-faulted on his first match point. Almagro then hit two blistering backhands to break the Swiss star for 5-5.
Behind 4-2 in the tiebreaker, Federer followed his serve to the net and hit a volley in the corner. But Almagro ran the ball down and responded with a backhand pass. Almagro saved three more match points in the final game of the third set before hitting a forehand into the net.
Nalbandian won the Estoril Open last week. The Argentine struggled to a three-set win over Spanish qualifier Fernando Vicente in the first round in Rome, but has had little trouble since.
"When I arrived from my win in Estoril, I was a little tired," he said. "But I've gotten better and I'm in top form now."
Ancic played more aggressively but committed twice as many unforced errors as Nalbandian 32 to 16. Nalbandian improved to 4-0 against Ancic. In 2004 in Rome, Nalbandian lost the final to Carlos Moya.
Nalbandian has a 6-4 record against Federer, including a fifth-set tiebreaker win in their last meeting, the Masters Cup final in November. [AP]