Dubai: Dubai’s favourite son Roger Federer kept up a date with his second home with an uncharacteristic 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over former training partner Marton Fucsovics in a rain-interrupted quarter-final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, late on Thursday.
Chasing a record eighth title here, Federer was not exactly at his brilliant best while dealing with an opponent ten years his junior and currently ranked No.38. With neither giving anything away in the first set, the score was tied 5-5 when an abrupt drizzle sent the players back in for around 10 minutes. After play resumed and the set had gone into a tie-breaker, it was the former world number one saving two set points to win a tantalizingly close set 8-6.
The second set was more straight on, or that is what it seemed to be as the Swiss ace went clear 2-0 with an early break. But, Fucsovics – a training partner of Federer in Zurich in the past – simply bounced back with a break of his own to draw level 2-2. Both went on serve till 4-4 when the drizzle came down again a second time causing a further seven-minute delay in play. That was just the leeway Federer was waiting for as he broke a second time and then served off for the set and match in nearly two hours of gripping, noisy action on centre court.
Federer’s opponent will be the winner of the last quarter-final that was being played between sixth seed Borna Coric and Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, later on Thursday.
“It’s tricky to come back and just hit winners after that [rain delays]. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage. Sometimes it was an advantage. We made the most of it,” Federer said.
“The tie-breaker was tough. I’m happy I found a way to get out of that one. That was an exciting match, to say the least,” he added.
The 37-year-old Swiss, who now holds a perfect 11-0 record in all quarter-finals played in Dubai, put down the win to his mental fortitude. “At the end of the day, I think it’s all about trying to put yourself in the best position time and time again, sort of push luck on your side. Some days you get it, some days you don’t,” he shrugged.
“I do believe the better player wins, but not always. You have to battle hard because the margins are extremely slim in the game nowadays,” Federer admitted.
Earlier in the day, young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas lined up a mouth-watering semi-final against Frenchman Gael Monfils with both players grinding out identical three-set wins. Terming him as an “artist”, Tsitsipas – champion at the Marseille Open last weekend – got the better of Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 7-6, 6-7, 6-1 after Rotterdam champion Monfils had battled with himself and determined qualifier Ricardas Berankis for a 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 win.
Tsitsipas, who famously knocked out the fancied Roger Federer in their Round Four match at the 2019 Australian Open, termed himself as an “artist on and off the court” following his three-set win in two hours and 19 minutes.
“Tennis is an art and the spectators who come are also artists as they are the ones who create the environment for us to play,” Tsitsipas said.
“It is my endeavor to be an artist on and off the court, be it through my game or through my lifestyle,” the 20-year-old Greek acknowleged.
(Singles quarter-finals) Gael Monfils bt Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 7-6, 6-2; Stefanos Tsitsipas bt Hubert Hurkacz 7-6, 6-7, 6-1; Roger Federer bt Marton Fucsovics 7-6, 6-4.
Order of Play (Friday)
Centre Court (Start at 2.30 pm) Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury vs Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau; (Not before 5 pm) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Gael Monfils; (Start at 7 pm) Borna Coric OR Nikoloz Basilashvili vs Roger Federer; Ben McLachlan/Jan-Lennard Struff vs Jeevan Nedunchezzhiyan/Purav Raja.