Roger Federer is clearly still working out the kinks of his larger racquet, or so many of his fans would hope. Today the Swiss looked horrific at times – both from the net and from the backcourt – in an ugly 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-5 victory of German Florian Mayer in the quarterfinals at the Hamburg Open.
After a strong opening set, Federer’s play plummeted and never really recovered. The third set alone featured five breaks of serve with Federer earning the decisive and most important one.
“It was extremely difficult,” said Federer. “I started really well. I thought we were both hitting the ball well in the first set and not giving each other that many chances. It went down to the wire. I’m happy I played a good tie-break. I should have been up early with a break in the second set; he got me there. It was a bit of a rollercoaster till the very end of the match. Just had to tough it out.
“The conditions were cold and heavy, the clay was heavy,” said Federer who at one point put on a vest to combat the cool conditions. “So, it was different than we had expected at the beginning of the day when we thought we would play at 5:15pm. I have to say that I really enjoyed the match. It was a tough match and Florian fought hard.”
The late start was in due part because of the lengthy quarterfinals played earlier in the day.
Third-seeded Nicolas Almagro needed three sets to shove off Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. Then in a 3-hour plus marathon, Federico Delbonis saved two matchpoints in a win over Fernando Verdasco.
Federer now meets the newbie semifinalist Delbonis who may not only be in awe of the Swiss but might also be overwhelmed by the stage.
“These kinds of matches are incredible and amazing,” said the 22-year-old Delbonis. “There were so many changes. There were chances for him, chances for me, before I could get the victory.”
Almagro will face the red hot Fabio Fognini who squeezed Tommy Haas for his eighth straight match win.
“I’m really feeling confident,” said Fognini. “I played another solid match. Against Tommy it’s never easy, but I’m happy because it’s my second semifinal at a 500 this year. My game is working really well at the moment, so physically and mentally I’m feeling really good.”
On the WTA circuit, Serena Williams remains the center of attention. The 31-year-old World No. 1 today ran her perfect 2013 clay record to 26-0 after destroying Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals at Gstaad.
“My opponent today was playing really well, so I had to be patient and stay out there as long as I could,” Williams said. “I’m getting more used to the clay again. It feels a little better now. I want to play two more matches and win on the last day, but I have a really tough opponent coming up.”
Serena now meets Klara Zakopalova after the third-seeded Czech raced past Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp. And Zakopalova has a clay win over Serena at 2009 Marbella.
“Well, she’s the best player in the world,” Zakopalova said. “I played against her four or five times before, so I know how she plays, but she’s even more experienced now, and she has won so many Grand Slams, so she’s really the best. She’s playing so well and really deserves to be No. 1.
“I know some things, though. I have to move her as much as I can. My serve has to be more solid than it has been. I’ll just give my 100%. I have nothing to lose. Playing these matches is like a reward for all the hard work you do – to play against the World No.1 at such a nice tournament is like a present.”
In the other semifinal it’s former Top 10 Flavia Pennetta against Johanna Larsson.
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