Federer Forges Forward In Pursuit Of History In Dubai

Seven-time Dubai champion two wins away from tour-level title No. 100

Roger Federer faced two set points in an opening-set tie-break on Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But the seven-time Dubai champion stayed calm and eliminated Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 7-6(6), 6-4 in one hour and 56 minutes, continuing his pursuit of a historic 100th tour-level title.

"I'm very happy to have found a way to the semis," Federer said. "It was a good level of play considering all the difficulties that were on the court today."

Federer remains undefeated in Dubai quarter-finals, advancing to the last four at the ATP 500 tennis tournament, where he holds a 51-6 record, for the 11th time. He will face sixth seed Borna Coric for a spot in his 10th final at the event.

The 37-year-old Swiss is now just two victories away from earning his eighth Dubai crown and becoming the second player in the Open Era to win 100 tour-level trophies. The only other player to accomplish the feat is Jimmy Connors, who captured 109 titles.

Reaching the semi-finals was not easy, though. Fucsovics did well to maintain his court-positioning for much of the match, using his forehand down the line to keep the Swiss on the back foot and to try to dictate play as much as he could. Federer was never able to consistently dominate rallies, making for a tense affair with entertaining points.

After Federer stormed to a 3/0 lead in the tie-break. Fucsovics won five consecutive points, and then earned two set points at 6/4. But the Hungarian showed some nerves, hitting a couple of forehands into the net to allow Federer to take the lead.

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But despite Federer breaking early in the second set, Fucsovics battled hard and regained his rhythm on the forehand wing to break back. At 4-4, Fucsovics fended off three break points when a slight rain began to fall, forcing a break in play that lasted less than 10 minutes (the second short rain delay of the match). While Federer could not convert another opportunity he earned after play resumed, Fucsovics could not fend off a fifth chance, missing a forehand down the line wide to give the Swiss a crucial second break in the set.

Federer won just two more points than Fucsovics, but he was able to advance in straight sets for the first time this week. Federer won 38 per cent of return points against the World No. 35.

"It's tricky to come back and just hit winners after [rain delays]. Sometimes it's a disadvantage. Sometimes it was an advantage. We made the most of it," Federer said. "The tie-break was tough. I'm happy I found a way to get out of that one. That was an exciting match, to say the least."

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Federer now leads Fucsovics 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series after also defeating the Hungarian in straight sets at last year’s Australian Open.

Federer's next opponent, Coric, beat two-time ATP Tour champion Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) in two hours and 28 minutes. Coric defeated Federer twice last year, to win the Halle title and reach the Shanghai final.

"He's really found his game. I remember when he came up, I played him here actually [in 2015]. Then he also beat Murray here, beat Rafa in Basel," Federer said. "Then he struggled for a while, then found his game again. We've had a couple tough matches as of late. He beat me on two of those occasions. I think we're 2-2 in the past four... I'm happy for Borna to have really understood his game. That's really important at the top level if you want to win the big tournaments, which he has now."

Did You Know?
If Federer triumphs in Dubai, it will be the fourth tournament at which he has captured eight titles. He has lifted nine trophies in both Basel and Halle, while emerging victorious at Wimbledon eight times.

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