- Roger Federer was forced to work for two hours in his third round match at the Madrid Open.
- The 37-year-old won 6-0, 4-6, 7-5, despite giving Gael Monfils match points in the third set.
- Federer displayed a brilliant will to win, but barely survived and perhaps proved his worries about playing at Roland Garros, the clay major, later this month were justified all along.
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Roger Federer was forced to fight hard for what could have otherwise been a routine win against Gael Monfils in the Madrid Open third round.
Federer bageled Monfils 6-0 in the first set, lost his momentum in the second, and looked like he was down and almost out in the third. However, he battled hard to bring a 4-1 deficit to 4-4 before completing a remarkable third set win thanks to a successful tie break where he kept his head while Monfils lost his.
Federer caught Monfils napping for the opening 20 minutes of the match and could have completed a quick-fire victory had the entertaining Frenchman not awoken from his slumber.
With a smile on his face, Monfils stole the momentum from Federer and broke the veteran tennis player at 4-5. He then went on to win the second set 6-4.
At times in the match, Federer appeared rattled, livid, and could be heard shouting at himself. He complained to the chair umpire that the sun was too bright, requesting unsuccessfully for the Caja Magica stadium roof to be closed. Regardless, he eventually refocused.
It all led to a gripping third set, one which Federer and Monfils exchanged the lead, with both players gunning for the win.
Monfils was up 4-1 but lost the lead as Federer brought it back to 4-4. Monfils even had match points at 6-5, but Federer smashed his way back to deuce.
Federer, eventually, was able to make one of his advantages count, sending the match into a tie break where he held his nerve, winning 7-3 for a 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 win after two wild hours in Spain.
Federer was perhaps right to be worried
The back-and-forth with Monfils was a stark contrast to his straight sets 52-minute win over Richard Gasquet in the previous round, but perhaps provides a greater indication that he was right to fear clay – and the clay season’s major, the French Open at Roland Garros – all along.
Just last week he said he was “not very confident” heading into the clay season and he said on Amazon Prime’s broadcast that Thursday’s session against Monfils was a “highly stressful” match.
Federer credited Monfils for “not being frustrated after losing the first set” and for staying calm. “I always tried to play positive tennis and that paid off today,” he added.
He is now tasked with competing against Dominic Thiem in the tournament’s quarter-final, an athlete he has only played once on the soft surface, but lost. Equally as concerning for Federer is the fact that Thiem is arguably one of the tour’s most consistent players having won approximately 74% of his matches on clay,according to ATP tour data.
Federer will have to hope his positive approach pays dividends once again on Friday.
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