If Roger Federer was warming up earlier this week in Montreal, the second seed hit a higher gear on Saturday afternoon during his semi-final against Robin Haase at the Coupe Rogers.

The Swiss right-hander struck “Are you kidding?” backhand passes and was untouchable on serve on Court Central. He dropped only nine points on serve (45/54) and hit 28 winners, including nine aces, against Haase, who was playing in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final.

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But the 30-year-old Dutchman was eager for the fight, pushing Federer to a second-set tie-break before the all-time great advanced 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach the Montreal title match.

“I’m happy, most happy that I’m actually really healthy going into the finals. I haven’t wasted too much energy. I’ve been able to keep points short. I’ve been really clean at net. I think my concentration and just my playing has gone up a notch. I’m just playing better,” Federer said.

The 36 year old will go for his third Canadian Masters 1000 crown (2004, 2006 in Toronto), his 27thMasters 1000 title and his 94thtour-level title on Sunday. If Federer wins, he’ll tie Ivan Lendl in second place for most tour-level titles won in the Open Era.

“I have reached levels that I never thought I would be able to reach, winning so many titles. Each title you can add is like a thrill. I am playing tennis to try to win titles. I always said that the ranking, if you’re not No. 1 in the world, doesn’t count really. It’s secondary. Now I’m lucky because both are in sight,” Federer said. “Lendl is a legend of tennis. He reached incredible records. He was extremely consistent. He won many titles. It’s fantastic and cool that I’m able to reach his level.”

Federer will meet a #NextGenATP star in the final, either 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev or 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov. Federer, who will be playing in his sixth final of the season, has now won 16 consecutive matches.

“To have a player at 18 or 20 years old in the finals of a Masters 1000 is not something we’ve seen very often, very rarely, except maybe when Andy, Novak and Rafa were coming up. They were such great teenagers that we maybe saw it more often. Not even I probably achieved finals of Masters 1000 at that age,” Federer said. “I think it’s very exciting for tennis. It’s the biggest stage that we have in the game on the ATP Tour. So to have young guys like this be there, it’s a good opportunity for them.”

The Swiss right-hander owns a 2-1 advantage against Zverev in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including a 6-1, 6-3 victory in the Gerry Weber Open final in Halle in June. Federer has never faced Shapovalov, who’s the youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist (since 1990).

Earlier in the week, Federer talked about struggling to implement his aggressive game plan. In the third round, he dropped the opening set against Spaniard David Ferrer, a player he’s now beaten 17 consecutive times.

But Federer was sharp from the start against Haase, breaking twice for a 3-1 lead. He served out the set to 15.

Haase, though, who’s hitting top form after battling injuries for years, refused to back down. The right-hander tidied up his service games, striking eight aces and never facing a break point in the second set. But Federer found his way through the tie-break, advancing to the his third Masters 1000 final of the season when Haase lifted a forehand long.



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