“John is one of the best servers in the game,” said Federer during his post-match on-court interview with ESPN. “Especially the pace on his second serve, it’s unreal. You just have to hang around and not drop your own serve. I guess that was the key to the match.”
In his first set, Federer came up empty on three break opportunities, but raised his game at a critical moment to sweep Isner 7/0 in the tie-break. Prior to the match, Isner had never been shut out in 428 tour-level tie-breaks contested (272-156).
“I think it started with a good pickup by me,” reflected Federer. “He hit and charged the net so I had to hit a tough pass. Then I served really well, had a few looks on his second serves and had perfect timing on them. You have to get a bit lucky to win a tie-break seven-love against John, but as long as you win the tie-break, the score doesn’t really matter.”
Federer has not lost to an American at the US Open since falling to Andre Agassi in the fourth round in 2001 (14-1 overall). The Swiss used his experience to escape a 0/40 deficit on serve in the second set to force another tie-break, which he won after going 2/4 down.
“[At 0/40 down] I thought the set could be getting away in a hurry, but I just tried to make him earn it,” Federer said. “I was hoping to get some first serves in. I did that and the next thing you know, you’re back in the game. It was clearly a crucial game, the way we were serving.”
The five-time champion, aged 34, joins fellow 30-and-over players Feliciano Lopez, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. There have not been four quarter-finalists who are 30 years or older at the US Open since 1982 (Jimmy Connors, Tom Gullikson, Guillermo Vilas and Kim Warwick).
Federer will take on Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals. The World No. 2 holds a 14-2 lead in the FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and is 2-0 against the Frenchman at the Grand Slam level (Wimbledon 2006 and 2007).
Gasquet booked his place in the final eight by overcoming a slow start against Tomas Berdych, ultimately winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. The World No. 12 was broken twice by the Czech in the first set, but saved the next four break points to win in two hours and 27 minutes.
“I started badly,” admitted Gasquet, who has yet to win a set against Federer in major tournaments. “I was not feeling confident on the court. He was playing great. I think the second set was really important for my confidence. I started to return better, serve much better than the start of the match. It was a great match for me and a big victory. Of course, I'm a little bit tired now, but in two days I will be fresh, no problem.”