Federer Saves 2 M.P. In Madrid To Record 1,200th Match Win
Swiss star follows in the footsteps of Connors
The Swiss superstar saved two match points to become the second player in the Open Era to hit the milestone, joining American Jimmy Connors (1,274), with a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory over No. 15 seed Gael Monfils of France in two hours.
Monfils won just nine points in the first set, but he found his rhythm to lead Federer 4-1 in the second, prior to the Swiss coming within one point of a 5-4 advantage and a chance to serve for a historic milestone. Monfils countered to take a 4-1 lead in the decider, before Federer started his own comeback in a tense finale on Manolo Santana Stadium.
Federer saved the first match point on a second serve at 5-6, 30/40, attacking the net to finish the point with a smash winner. He saved a second match point, two points later, when aggression off his forehand kept Monfils off balance. Federer was continually forced to rely on a second serve and attacked the net to create the error.
In the deciding set tie-break, their first since the 2010 Rolex Paris Masters that Monfils won, Federer took a 3/0 lead and maintained his service advantage for a 20th victory of 2019 (20-2 overall). The 37-year-old is now also 87-0 in matches where he has won a set 6-0.
The three-time former Madrid champion, playing his first tournament on clay in three years, will now prepare to face fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, runner-up at this ATP Masters 1000 event for the past two years. Thiem leads Federer 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including victory in the BNP Paribas Open final in March.
Fourth seed Federer recovered from 15/40 in his first service game, and by the end of the 18-minute first set had struck seven winners.
The crowd, desperate to see a contest, was rewarded in the second set when Monfils sparked into life after holding serve — with an almighty roar — in the first game. The greater weight of shot helped Monfils to break Federer with a forehand winner en route to a 3-0 lead.
Two consecutive double faults cost Monfils at 4-3 and gifted Federer a way back into the pair's 14th encounter. Monfils' game faltered considerably, but he kept in control to save a break point with a serve and volley winner at 4-4, 30/40 and, in the following game, clinched the set when Federer hit a forehand long.
Monfils carried the momentum into the third set, opening up a 3-0 lead. But Federer capitalised on fatigue from Monfils in the seventh game, recovering to 3-4 with a stunning backhand return winner with his opponent heading to the net.
At 5-5, double faults once again hurt Monfils and terrific anticipation from Federer at 30/30 earned him a break point. Monfils was living dangerously, but two forehand winners shifted the pressure to Federer.