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Things falling into place for fan-favorite Federer

THE numbers appear to be lining up for Roger Federer this year as he bids for an elusive French Open title.

The world No. 2, chasing the only grand slam crown to have eluded him, played his best match at Roland Garros this year in a 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-4 defeat of local favorite Gael Monfils on Wednesday.

"Everything just started to click. That is something I have not had a whole lot at this tournament yet," the Swiss, who had dropped sets in his three previous encounters in Paris, told reporters.

As the 13-time grand slam champion, who is one title shy of Pete Sampras's record, stands on the cusp of a fourth successive final at Roland Garros, things could not get much better for him.

He is the only member of the world's top four in the semifinals after four-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, Serb Novak Djokovic and Briton Andy Murray all bowed out early.

Lining up against him in the last four will be Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro. The other semi will feature Nadal's conqueror Robin Soderling of Sweden and Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.

None of the trio has ever made it this far at Roland Garros and more ominously, Federer has an aggregate 26-1 win-loss record against them.

Gonzalez, seeded 12th, is the only one to have beaten the Swiss and also the only other player to have contested a grand slam final at the 2007 Australian Open - where he was beaten by Federer.

"I know that I am the great favorite," said Federer.

"It doesn't mean because I have a great record against all the players left in the draw that I'm going to win this, but I'll definitely try everything I possibly can to do it."

Del Potro, who was impressive in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 dismissal of Spain's Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals, has never won a set against Federer, let alone a match in five attempts.

If need be, Federer can also count on the staunch support from the Paris crowd.

"This year it's even more extreme. When I walk on the streets or I go for dinner, everybody is like, 'This is your year! You've got to do it'!" he said.

"They're screaming from their scooters and out of the car.

"They even get out at the red lights and want me to sign an autograph or take a picture.

"It just shows me that everybody is watching the French Open here, and it's great to get the support. Once out in the stadium it's amazing.

"I mean, we don't have a grand slam in Switzerland but I definitely feel at home in the grand slams, and especially here."

Although del Potro obviously wants to win his first grand slam title on Sunday, he knows who he'll be cheering for if he loses to Federer.

"Everybody wants Roger to win this tournament," del Potro said. "But if I can't do, if I can't win this tournament, I want to see, next Sunday, Roger with the trophy."


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