Quickly and rather quietly, Roger Federer is back in the French Open semifinals.
There will be absolutely nothing low-key — or, it seems safe to say, easy — about what comes next for the 16-time Grand Slam champion: a showdown against Novak Djokovic, who is 41-0 this year and unbeaten in his last 43 matches overall.
With attention focused elsewhere, perhaps in part because some assume his best days are behind him, the no-fuss, no-muss Federer simply has won all 15 sets he's played so far, capped Tuesday by a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (3) quarterfinal victory against No. 9-seeded Gael Monfils of France.
"For me, the plan is trying to get a step further and into the finals of the French Open," said Federer, who won the 2009 title at Roland Garros to complete a career Grand Slam but lost in the quarterfinals a year ago. "At the end of the day, that's, for me, the big picture, and that's why I entered the French Open. It wasn't to stop Novak."
Nevertheless, their semifinal is sure to be the talk of the tennis world until it's played Friday.
For Djokovic — who didn't need to exert himself Tuesday, because his quarterfinal opponent, Fabio Fognini, withdrew Monday with an injured left leg — a victory against Federer would guarantee a rise to No.1 in the rankings for the first time. It also would make the second-seeded Serb 42-0 in 2011, tying John McEnroe in 1984 for the best start to a season in the Open era, which began in 1968. And it would put Djokovic one win from his first French Open title, the objective he cares most about at the moment.
Both men are aware who the last player to defeat Djokovic anywhere was: Federer, a 6-4, 6-1 winner in the ATP Finals at London, on Nov. 27.
Today's other men's quarterfinal is No. 4 Andy Murray against unseeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina. Playing with a torn tendon in his right ankle, Murray won the last five games to finish off a 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 comeback victory against No.15 Viktor Troicki of Serbia in a fourth-round match suspended Monday night because of darkness.
There was an odd scene at 3-2 in the fifth set, when a ball boy — apparently believing there was a break in action — ran on the court during a point, while Troicki was lining up an overhead smash. Troicki hit the winner, but the chair umpired ordered the point replayed.
Murray won the do-over, but Troicki actually broke serve to take the game. Eventually, Murray took the match.
On the women's side, No. 5 Francesca Schiavone of Italy, the defending champion, came back after losing 10 of the first 12 games and beat No. 14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 1-6, 7-5, 7-5. On Thursday, Schiavone will meet No. 11 Marion Bartoli of France, who defeated No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, 7-6 (4), 6-4.