Roger Federer admits the pressure of winning a first French Open title is weighing on his mind.
The Swiss star beat Frenchman Gael Monfils in straight sets yesterday to move into the semi-finals at Roland Garros, where he will meet fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro.
Such is the clamour for Federer, the second seed, to clinch the one grand-slam crown missing on his CV that he revealed he is being stopped at traffic lights by fans wishing him good luck.
The crowds at Roland Garros are also pulling for him, to such an extent that you could not tell who the French player was during his match with Monfils on Philippe Chatrier court.
But Federer, who has seen main rivals Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic dumped out early, admits it is not just a question of external pressure as he closes in on greatness.
“We’re all nervous at this stage – I felt it in the warm-up. I was tired, I was nervous and I didn’t really feel good,” the 27-year-old said after his convincing win over Monfils.
“The whole story of Nadal losing, Murray losing, Djokovic losing, the draw opening up a little bit; it obviously plays with your mind.
“But it doesn’t matter if I’m zero nervous or 100% nervous. I know I’ll always play a decent match in the quarter-finals of a grand slam.”
He did just that, easing past 11th seed Monfils to reach his 20th consecutive grand-slam semi-final.
It was a much-improved performance compared to his fourth-round display against Tommy Haas, when he was forced to come from two sets down to squeeze into the last eight.
“For the first time, I could play a bit more relaxed,” he added.
“I was able to hit through the ball more. Everything just started to click.”
Argentina’s Del Potro was a 6-3 6-4 6-2 winner over 16th seed Tommy Robredo in yesterday’s other quarter-final.
Robin Soderling meets Fernando Gonzalez in the semi-final from the top half of the draw.
The women’s semi-finals take place today, with top seed and world number one Dinara Safina coming up against 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova and seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova clashing with Sam Stosur, the 30th seed.