Several of the top men were forced to double-up on Friday after the heavy rains a day earlier. Seven-time champion Roger Federer won both his matches, cruising past Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 7-6(6) in just over an hour, then returning in the evening to take on Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka, who earlier finished off Marton Fucsovics, held off break points late in the first then snared the tiebreaker for a one set let. But with his back against the wall, Federer came back to win a thrilling second set breaker and force a third.
After just two points in the final set, a lightning storm delayed play for about 20 minutes. When play resumed at approximately 11:30pm local time, Federer took control and wore down Wawrinka with a 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-2 win.
“Maybe he came out a bit heavy after the rain delay,” Federer said. “I also felt heavy for a second, because it has been a lot of tennis and a lot of focus we had to put into it. Maybe it felt a little bit easier for me and maybe it was a little bit clearer what I wanted to do also from the baseline. And I just didn’t want to overhit, to be honest, because I felt like I did that quite a bit the first couple of sets.”
“But again, Stan has the power, and I’m so glad he’s back on the tour and playing well and moving well. So I really enjoyed the match for what it was. It’s difficult to always play against him, but I’m happy I was able to find a way in the breaker in the second, because it was a frustrating night, for me, for the most period, and in the third I was able to find a way.
“I think it was partially because he maybe dropped his level, for sure, but maybe me, I also played a bit better then.”
It was the 37-year-old’s 13th straight win in Cincinnati and it marked the first time since 2004 Gstaad that Federer played two matches on the same day.
“It was exciting to go through something new, only it was something I have done for the second time of my career maybe at the professional level,” said Federer. “Felt like two separate days, actually, because this morning it was daytime, or this afternoon it was daytime, windy and breezy, and then we came out in the nighttime and it was black, and the sky totally different. No wind at all. Different atmosphere. It was quite interesting, actually.”
Wawrinka, who began the summer ranked outside the Top 250, will now return to the Top 100. But he falls to 3-21 against his countryman.
“For sure it was a great level,” Wawrinka lamented. “I think I’m playing great in general. I’m playing better every day, every week. Last week was really important and really good for myself, for my tennis, for my confidence…. I’m happy to see where I am right now. I had a tough match last week against Rafa. Close match, also. Today was against Roger. They are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. I beat Schwartzman, I beat Nishikori, so the level is good.”
“I need to keep improving, keep working, keep doing the right thing and keep pushing myself. For sure tonight I’m sad and disappointed to lose, but for me it’s a big victory for myself after what I had last year. It was exactly one year ago. To see where I was also few weeks ago, I’m really happy to be here.”
Federer will get no day off as he returns Saturday evening at 7pm to take on David Goffin. The Belgian registered two Top 10 wins on Friday beating Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-4 and then returning to oust Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(5), 7-6(4).
“It was a tough day,” Goffin said. “It was a great intensity against Delpo and some rallies with his backhand crosscourt, so it was not easy tactically to find a solution. But at the end, two tie-breaks and I made it. So I’m really happy to be in the semi-final for the first time.
“Tonight was a great battle. So I’m feeling great, moving well. I think when I move well, that’s the key for my best tennis.”
Goffin enters his first Cincinnati semifinal as a big underdog against Federer at 1-6 against the Swiss, but he’s 10 years younger and he stunned the World No. 2 in the semifinals of the ATP Finals last November.
“He plays so well here in Cincinnati. He loves the centre court. It’s fast courts, fast conditions, so he likes it. And it’s not going to be easy,” Goffin said of Federer. “It’s always special to play against Roger. You have to be focused on what you have to do and not on his side, because you know that all the crowd will be behind him and you have to play your best tennis and be focused on your game. So it will be tough, like always.”
Novak Djokovic kept his hopes alive for a first Cincinnati title, first finishing 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Serb led by a break 2-1 in the third before rain at 10pm Thursday cancelled play.
He then returned and knocked out a game Milos Raonic 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. The Canadian fired 21 aces and continuously bombed serve. He led by a break in all three sets but couldn’t maintain the lead in the crucial third set. Raonic falls to 0-9 against Djokovic but he did snap a 16-set losing streak to the Serb.
“I’m very pleased with my fighting spirit and staying mentally tough to overcome deficits in both matches,” Djokovic said. “Obviously the match against Dimitrov yesterday didn’t start so well for me. He started tremendously well. We were not the only ones [dealing with rain interruptions], but it just makes it harder, because you’re warming up, you’re cooling down.
“We went home around 10:30, came back this morning again to play him, and then [you have a] couple hours of rest. And to go back on the court again against Raonic, who was serving 140-plus miles from the first game, that got me going, for sure, from the beginning.”
Djokovic will meet Croatian and 2016 Cincinnati winner Marin Cilic Saturday afternoon. Cilic also won two matches beating Canadian Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4. And then Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6(7), 6-4.
Djokovic leads Cilic 14-2 but Marin has won the last two meetings including Queen’s where he saved a match point.
“Novak is playing really well. I just watched the end of his match, and the level was definitely high and he’s definitely in really good form,” Cilic said. “We played a tough match in Queen’s, but that’s grass and definitely different. So I have to get ready and give [it a] full shot.”
SATURDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER start 12:00 pm
WTA –  Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs Kiki Bertens (NED)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP –  Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Marin Cilic (CRO)
Not Before 4:00 pm
WTA –  Simona Halep (ROM) vs Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP –  David Goffin (BEL) vs  Roger Federer (SUI)
WTA Doubles Final
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