Three time champion Roger Federer advanced to the quarter final in Madrid in dramatic circumstances as he saved 2 match points against familiar foe Gael Monfils of France to record his 1200th career win. The 2006 (indoor carpet), 2009 (Red clay) and 2012 (Blue clay) champion now goes on to meet Dominic Thiem, the man who beat him three years ago in what turned out to be his last match on clay for a long time. He only returned after three years on clay, playing only Madrid and Roland Garros in Paris, where he won in 2009, his only title in the French Capital on clay.
There was no indication of the drama to follow as Federer bageled the unpredictable Frenchman in the first set. Monfils, ranked 18th, last played the Swiss at Roland Garros in 2015 losing in four sets and had earlier beaten Federer four times in his career. It was little surprise when he regrouped to break serve in the second game of the second set. Federer evened it and had a break point to go 5-4 up, however the Frenchman held serve and thanks to some unforced errors from the fourth seeded Federer evened the match as he took the second set 6-4.
It was all Monfils in the early goings of the decider as he led 4-1, but the 37 year old Federer broke back in the seventh game to setup an exciting climax. Federer had another chance at 5-5 on Monfils serve but the gallant Frenchman held and then had two match points in the next game on Federer’s serve.
The Swiss survived both and once Monfils double faulted to start the tie-break Federer was always in charge as he carved out a 6-0, 4-6,7-6(3) in two hours and one minute on court Manuel Santana. Thiem, the champion in Barcelona defeated the Monte Carlo Open champion Fabio Fognini 6-4,7-5. That sets up a fascinating rematch of the Indian Wells final between the two which Thiem won to claim his maiden Master’s series title.
The only upset of the day was the defeat of the sixth seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan who lost to the 2015 French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. The 34th ranked Wawrinka now looks to be seeded going into Roland Garros after a 6-3,7-6(3) and next faces the daunting task of facing the five time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain who had no problems beating the unseeded American Frances Tiafoe 6-3,6-4 in the last match of the day.
The top seeded Novak Djokovic, winner in 2011 and 2016 was a 6-1,7-6(2) winner over another Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. His quarter-final opponent will be the ninth Marin Cilic of Croatia who beat the Serb Laslo Djere, conqueror of Juan Martin Del Potro. Cilic won 4-6,6-3,6-2 but conceded a walkover on Friday as he went down with food poisoning. As a result Djokovic advances to the last four.
The defending champion and third seeded Alexander Zverev who has lost in four tournaments on clay this season, came from a set down to beat the Qualifier from Poland Hubert Hurkacz 3-6,6-4,6-4. Zverev who lost his no. 3 ranking to Roger Federer this week, has a miserable 15-8 start to 2019, reaching only the final in Acapulco losing to the Australian Nick Kyrgios. He meets the eighth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, last week winner of the Estoril Open in Portugal. Tsitsipas easily beat the veteran Spanish left hander Fernando Verdasco 6-3,6-4.
The following is the Quarter-finals lineup with my pick mentioned first:-
Roger Federer (4) v. Dominic Thiem (5); Thiem leads 3-2
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (-); Nadal leads 17-3
Alexander Zverev (3) v. Stefanos Tsitsipas (8) ; tied 1-1.
For the record Novak Djokovic who leads Marin Cilic 17-2 in their head to head advances courtesy of a walkover from Cilic.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]