Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Roger Federer moved tantalisingly closer to his 100th career title by overcoming a resilient Marton Fucsovics 7-6 6-4 on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. His next opponent will be sixth seed Borna Coric, who defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6-2 7-6.
The second semi-final sees fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas take on Gael Monfils. Tsitsipas recovered from a second set disappointment to defeat Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 6-7 6-1. Recent Rotterdam champion Gael Monfils also struggled to overcome a strong challenge but emerged from his battle against Ricardas Berankis with a 6-1 6-7 6-2 victory.
Federer needed nearly two hours to overcome Fucsovics, saving two set points in the tiebreak and then needing five break points to take a 5-4 lead in the second before serving out the match.
“That was an exciting match, to say the least,” said Federer. “Yeah. I mean, look, you just go out there and try your best. Sometimes you get in the lead, sometimes you don’t. Important was not to get down in the score early on. Yeah, it was tricky. A couple of rain delays, especially one at 5-All, coming back with sort of no preparation, if you like, just have to serve can be tricky.
“Then the same thing in the second for him also (at 4-4). The energy of the body, the adrenaline, tactics, all that stuff kind of fades away just a little bit in those rain delays. It’s tricky to come back and just hit winners after that. We made the most of it. The tiebreaker was tough. I’m happy I found a way to get out of that one.”
Tsitsipas produced an aggressive and energetic performance against a talented opponent who had dismissed world No. 6 Kei Nishikori in the previous round, and served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. But his opponent dug deep, broke serve and then took the tiebreak to level the match. Tsitsipas though rose to the challenge in the third and took that set with ease.
“Yeah, that was frustrating,” said Tsitsipas, who on Sunday won his second career title in Marseille. “But if I would think about it too much, it would cost me the match. I rebooted myself, came in refreshed. I said, I’m going to stay another two hours here, but it didn’t happen.”
Monfils comfortably swept the first set, but faced much sterner opposition in the second. He did break to lead 5-4 and got to within two points of victory as he served for the match, but then lost four straight points, double-faulting on break point to bring the score to 5-5, and Berankis went on to take the tiebreak.
A more aggressive approach then gave Monfils the advantage in the deciding set, and after being broken to fall behind 2-1 he won the final five games of the match for the loss of just eight points.
“Second set, I don’t know, it was a little bit different. I mean, I had less on my shots. I felt a bit flatter. I think the energy dropped a little bit,” said Monfils. “He played a bit better. He was a bit more aggressive. I couldn’t really find my rhythm, as well. I felt he was a bit more pumped. It was tougher for me. I really had to really get upset and bring more energy for me, to move more my legs, to be a bit more aggressive on my shots, more aggressivity on every shot.”
Coric was taken to three sets for the third time this week. Just one break of serve decided the opening set as Basilashvili broke to lead 2-1. In the second, Coric stormed to a 5-0 lead and in the third led 3-1 before Basilashvili levelled at 4-4 and the set went to a tiebreak.
“We have enjoyed four fantastic matches today and congratulate the winners on reaching the semi-finals,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Roger Federer continues to chase his 100th career title and his eighth here in Dubai, and we are excited to see how he fares as the tournament reaches its climax.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “We have seen some wonderful performances throughout the week and are now down to the final four. It is impossible to predict who will hold the trophy aloft on Saturday, with the only certainty being that tennis fans can look forward to more fantastic matches as we move towards a thrilling finale.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which continues until 2nd March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.