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Roger Federer advanced to his eighth Western & Southern Open semi-final on Friday, performing double duty and maintaining his dominance against countryman Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-2.
The second seed improved to 21-3, including 16-0 on hard courts, in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Wawrinka, who continued to show positive steps in his comeback from two knee surgeries one year ago.
“I just tried to remember [for] the core of the match, focus on your serve and try to do what we talked with the coach beforehand on the return games, but it was just never really connecting at the right times my way,” Federer said.
“So I just had to hang tough, not get frustrated, and hope that I was not going to throw in a horrible service game or that he was going to connect perfectly. It was a close match today, so I'm just relieved that I got through it somehow.”
Wawrinka was two points away from the semi-finals in the second set, at 6/6 in the tie-break, as he hadn't conceded anything to Federer, playing steady from the baseline and not overhitting against the second seed. But, in the tie-break, Wawrinka went for broke and came up empty, blasting a backhand wide on Federer's third set point.
Lightning briefly suspended the match after the second set, but when they resumed, it was all Federer. He broke for the first time in the match on his eighth opportunity to lead 4-2, and a break to love sealed the quarter-final just before midnight Eastern Time.
“Maybe he came out a bit heavy after the rain delay. I also felt heavy for a second, because it has been a lot of tennis and a lot of focus we had to put into it. Maybe it felt a little bit easier for me and maybe it was a little bit clearer what I wanted to do also from the baseline. And I just didn't want to overhit, to be honest, because I felt like I did that quite a bit the first couple of sets,” Federer said.
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“But again, Stan has the power, and I'm so glad he's back on the tour and playing well and moving well. So I really enjoyed the match for what it was. It's difficult to always play against him, but I'm happy I was able to find a way in the breaker in the second, because it was a frustrating night, for me, for the most period, and in the third I was able to find a way.
“I think it was partially because he maybe dropped his level, for sure, but maybe me, I also played a bit better then.”
For Wawrinka, his quarter-final run in Cincinnati marks back-to-back positive weeks at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events. Last week, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, he beat Aussie Nick Kyrgios, Marton Fucsovics of Hungary before falling to Rafael Nadal in the third round.
“For sure it was a great level. I think I'm playing great in general. I'm playing better every day, every week. Last week was really important and really good for myself, for my tennis, for my confidence…. I'm happy to see where I am right now. I had a tough match last week against Rafa. Close match, also. Today was against Roger. They are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. I beat Schwartzman, I beat Nishikori, so the level is good,” Wawrinka said.
“I need to keep improving, keep working, keep doing the right thing and keep pushing myself. For sure tonight I'm sad and disappointed to lose, but for me it's a big victory for myself after what I had last year. It was exactly one year ago. To see where I was also few weeks ago, I'm really happy to be here.”
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Both players were performing double duty. Federer beat Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in straight sets earlier Friday, and Wawrinka knocked out Hungary's Marton Fucsovics. Overall, the always positive Federer didn't seem to mind the two a day.
“It was exciting to go through something new, only it was something I have done for the second time of my career maybe at the professional level. Felt like two separate days, actually, because this morning it was daytime, or this afternoon it was daytime, windy and breezy, and then we came out in the nighttime and it was black, and the sky [was] totally different. No wind at all. Different atmosphere. It was quite interesting, actually,” Federer said.
The seven-time champion will next meet Belgian David Goffin, who beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Goffin won their last matchup in the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals, but Federer leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 6-1.
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