Former world number one Roger Federer rode on his 50th win in Dubai to keep up with his date with history following a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 result over Fernando Verdasco to enter the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, late on Wednesday.
Chasing a record eighth crown in the past 17 years since his first visit here in 2002, Federer’s 50th win — interestingly maintaining his record to a perfect 7-0 against the Spaniard — to set up a last four clash against training partner Marton Fucsovics at 7pm, on Thursday.
With his Australian Open adversary Stefanos Tsitsipas the only other seed remaining among the last eight, the second-seeded Federer started off well only to switch off a bit midway before coming back strongly to take the third set and match.
After breezing through the opening set in 34 minutes, Verdasco looked more focused in the second and a break in the second game was enough to hand him the set 6-2 and draw level with his distinguished opponent. But in the third, the Swiss was back in command and a break in the eighth game was enough for the Swiss ace to serve out for set and match 6-3 for his eleventh quarter-final in Dubai.
“These best-of-three set matches, you’re not always in control of everything because, like you saw at the end, a good five minutes of the opponent or a good five minutes of you can decide the outcome of the match. You’re definitely living on the edge at some point in the match. This is how it is. I’m happy I actually stayed calm throughout the game,” Federer said after the match.
“I felt like I was having a good feeling out there. Even though I wasn’t playing my best, I still felt like it was going to fall my way when it really mattered. I think that confidence is kind of important in sports or in tennis. I’m happy I had it today. I was right. I played good at the end. I had the serve when I needed it, had some good shots, a good point on breakpoint when I needed it. That was nice to win it that way,” he added.
Having trained with Fucsovics in the past, Federer was confident yet wary of his chances in Thursday’s quarter-final. “I know Marton quite well actually. He came to Zurich to train with me. He was nice enough to come there. I don’t remember how long we spent, but a few days practicing together there. We had a great time. Then I played him at the Australian Open last year,” he recalled.
“He’s improved. He likes the fast surfaces. He likes to play up in the court. He has the power when required. I think it’s going to be definitely a match that’s going to test me tomorrow,” Federer added.
Earlier in the day, Gael Monfils and Stefanos Tsitsipas eased into the next stages with identical straight set wins against wild card Marcos Baghdatis and qualifier Egor Gerasimov. Winner in Rotterdam two weeks back, Monfils dispatched off Baghdatis 6-3, 6-2, while last Sunday’s Marseille Open champion Tsitsipas made his way past Gerasimov 6-3, 6-1.
Action will continue from 2pm on Thursday with Monfils taking on qualifier Ricardas Berankis, after which Tsitsipas will be up against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who scalped top seed and world No. 6 Kei Nishikori 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 to reach his first-ever ATP Tour quarter-final.
In the last match on centre court, Borna Coric defeated former two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and set up a quarter-final against Nikoloz Basilashvili.
(Singles) Hubery Hurkacz bt Kei Nishikori 7-5, 5-7, 6-2; Ricardas Berankis bt Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-1; Gael Monfils bt Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-2; Nikoloz Basilashvili bt Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3; Marton Fucsovics bt Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-2; Stefanos Tsitsipas bt Egor Gerasimov 6-3, 6-1; Roger Federer bt Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Borna Coric btTomas Berdych 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)