Federer has made a conscious effort at the age of 33 to come to the net more often to cut down the angles and rely more heavily on his considerable volleying skills. Through the four rounds, he averaged 54 approaches, six more per match than last year. Against Monfils, he came forward 74 times -- and won 53 of those points.
Monfils, showing impeccable concentration, broke Federer in the fifth game of the opening set. Federer's too-flat forehand, riding the breeze, sailed wide. He made it stand up and, serving for the set, served one at 111 mph wide and Federer's backhand answer was wide.
There was no reason for fear in Fed Camp, for he had dropped the first set to Marcel Granollers in the third round -- and came back to win 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
But then it happened again. Monfils broke him in the first game of the second set and, again, it stuck. A backhand into the net gave Monfils a two-set lead only 78 minutes into the contest.
Federer broke Monfils at the top of the third frame and, showing true emotion for the first time, held up a clenched fist at his box containing coach Stefan Edberg. Monfils came back with a break of his own with Federer serving at 2-1, then was broken right back. Suddenly, the crowd was rallying around Federer.
They roared when Federer won the third set with a sweet forehand winner. Monfils, who is coachless, began talking steadily to himself in French. Nevertheless, he played steady ball and found himself up a break with Federer serving at 4-5. He won three of four points, but facing two match points, Federer came up with a big, unmanageable serve followed by a forehand winner. After Monfils missed a forehand long, Federer banged another hard sere down the middle and skipped a little when Monfils framed it.
Monfils followed that up with four missed serves in a row -- his eighth and ninth double faults of the match and fourth and fifth of the set -- to give Federer the break he needed. He held comfortably and the match was even.
Afterward, Federer sounded almost giddy talking on court. Speaking quickly, he assessed Cilic, his semifinal opponent.
"Marin's played some great tennis in New York over the years," Federer said. "I'm looking forward to playing Marin. We had a tough, tough match in Toronto."
Federer needed six match points to advance past Cilic to the quarterfinals last month, winning 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-4.
He'll have to channel the 19-year-old Federer again for a chance at that record 18th Grand Slam title. So far, anyway, he seems up to it.