Roger Federer was on the brink of exiting the Madrid Masters twice on Thursday. The Swiss who is playing his first clay event in three years, breezed in the opening set against Gael Monfils, then, serving to stay in the match in the third saved match points on two occasions before eventually pulling it out 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(3).
Federer won the first set in a blink but Monfils found his form, grabbing an early break and hanging on to force the decider.
The Frenchman continued to have the upper hand in the third jumping out to a 4-1 lead until Federer roared back. Then the Swiss, thanks to some timely serve-volley artisty, saved the match points at 5-6 and rolled in the breaker.
“I just felt not so confident to win the point from the baseline, so I said panic mode is switched on and we are coming in,” Federer siad the match points. “Regardless of how and what and when, there were no more tactics except to serve it to the forehand to mix it up and you go to the net as quick as possible so you are as close as possible and I framed the first volley, which ended up being perfect.”
Playing Monfils for the first time in nearly five years, Federer sensed the first set was too easy.
“It cannot go on like this. You can dream about 6-Love, 6-Love but they never happen,” Federer said. “I think that’s the beauty of the scoring system that if you win the first set, everything’s back to scratch in the second set.
“And I don’t remember the break in the first game, but I think Gael showed great intensity in the beginning of the second set to make sure that he somehow got a rhythm going, and he started playing better and he did.”
The win was Roger’s 1,200th of his career.
Federer now has little time to recover to face arguably the second best clay courter in the game in Dominic Thiem who beat the Swiss to win Indian Wells.
Thiem won his seventh straight match beating Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-5. He also gave Federer his last loss on clay (back in Rome 2016) as well as on the tour. The Austrian leads Federer 3-2.
Losing just four points on first serve, Rafael Nadal played some of his best tennis of late thumping American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4.
“I’m very happy. It’s an important result against a tough opponent,” said Nadal. “As I said yesterday, he already won against Basilashvili and Kohlschreiber, so he came to this match with good confidence and winning against two great players on clay. It was a tough match. I think I did a lot of things well tonight, so I’m happy with the performance and excited to be through.”
Nadal will have a tough test Friday in the quarters against Stan Wawrinka who KO’d Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(3). Nadal leads the other Swiss 17-3 in their series.
“It’s a tough one. He’s one of the best players in the world,” said Rafa. “He likes to play in these conditions, fast, altitude, big serve, big shots. It’s in this kind of match that I need to play my best. I need to add something else, and I hope to be ready to make that happen.”
Novak Djokovic continued to play well winning his 13th straight over Jeremy Chardy with a 6-1, 7-6(2) decision. Djokovic will now take on Marin Cilic on Friday. The Croat ousted Djokovic countryman Laslo Djere in three.
“I’m building slowly,” Djokovic said. “Roland Garros, on clay is where I want to peak. But of course I would love to try to get as far as in this tournament and also in Rome next week as possible.”
The fourth quarterfinal will put NextGenners Alexander Zverev against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Zverev overcame a slow start to rally past Pol Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Tsitsipas eliminated Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4 to win his sixth straight match. The two have split two prior meetings. If he wins, Tsitsipas will have the most match victories on the season with 26.
FRIDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
Manolo Santana 12:00 Noon
QF 1 Novak Djokovic v 9 Marin Cilic
Not Before 2:30 Pm
SF Belinda Bencic v 3 Simona Halep
Not Before 5:00 Pm
QF 4 Roger Federer v 5 Dominic Thiem
Not Before 8:00 Pm
SF 8 Sloane Stephens v 7 Kiki Bertens
Not Before 9:30 Pm
QF Stan Wawrinka v 2 Rafael Nadal
Arantxa Sanchez 12:30 Pm
SF 6 Gabriela Dabrowski/Yifan Xu v (WC) Jelena Ostapenko/Vera Zvonareva
SF 5 SuWei Hsieh/Barbora Strycova v Veronika Kudermetova/Galina Voskoboeva
Not Before 7:30 Pm
QF 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas v 3 Alexander Zverev
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