Roger Federer proved in his 15th quarter-final at the Swiss Indoors Basel, his hometown tournament, that he still has plenty of magic left.
The top seed rode the momentum of a tremendous backhand half-volley winner from the baseline down break point in the third set to oust Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, in one hour, 43 minutes. Federer will have the opportunity to advance to his 13th final in Basel against the winner of third seed David Goffin and fifth seed Jack Sock.
“Today was a battle. I had to somehow dig and fight and sometimes these wins are more rewarding than just leading from the get-go and dominating throughout and bringing it home,” said Federer. “These are better matches to win sometimes, actually. I just had a tough time really getting into it and he was rock solid, so he deserved that first set, but the reaction from me was really important.”
Federer, who is into his eighth ATP World Tour semi-final of the season, seeks to earn his eighth title in Basel.
And judging by his 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Mannarino heading into Friday's match, which included all 10 sets going in the Swiss’ favor, it was hard to imagine the Frenchman spoiling Federer’s hometown party. But after Federer did not face a break point in his first two wins, both by 6-1, 6-3 scorelines, the tricky left-hander tested the 36-year-old.
Mannarino broke to love at 4-4 in the opening set before winning his first-ever set against Federer without a problem. The seven-time Basel champion, intense as ever at an event for which he was once a ballboy, quickly won five games in a row to turn the momentum around.
Yet after failing to break Mannarino with two opportunities in the first game of the deciding set, it was Federer who was in trouble. He faced two break points at 2-3, and the Frenchman did well with his second opportunity, lacing a forehand return on the baseline, a shot that most players would scramble to simply put back into play.
But somehow, Federer flicked his one-handed backhand for a winner down the line and never looked back from there, winning the final four games of the match to advance to the semi-finals.
Federer explained his thought process on that crucial break point save. “Before, I hope that I don’t have to hit a shot like this. During, I hope that it’s going to go in and he can’t reach it. And after, it’s thank God I made it.... And then obviously it’s so, so important at deuce to somehow win the game. It doesn’t matter how you do it… you can’t allow yourself to lose a game after saving two break points the way you did, and I held my nerves, held the game, and was able to [get] through it.”
Federer holds a combined 8-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Goffin and Sock.