After many shocking upsets yesterday at the 2016 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, third seeded Roger Federer looked to avoid the upset bug as he faced off with world number 17 Roberto Bautitsta Agut for the fifth time. The Spaniard gave the Swiss number one little trouble as Federer avoided an upset too, easing into the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and nine minutes.
The Swiss Maestro played smart and crisp tennis throughout the match. It is clear that his knee is not causing the 34-year old any issues, which is a great sign. This victory marks the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s 30th overall victory at the Monte Carlo Country Club. With Novak Djokovic being upset yesterday, Federer's side of the draw has opened up, gifting the Fed-Express a golden opportunity to roll-through and win his first ever title in Monte Carlo.
Swiss Maestro breaks twice to take first set
Coming into this third round contest, Federer owned a 4-0 head-to-head over Bautista Agut, having never lost a set. Both players began the match with confidence. However, in the fifth game, Federer made the first move. After a grueling eight-minute back-and-forth game, the 34-year old broke the 14th seed for a 3-2 advantage. The former world number one easily consolidated the break in his next service game.
In the Spaniard’s very next service game, Federer went on the offensive once again, earning two additional break chances. With a chip-and-charge return, Federer was able to hit the volley for a winner, earning his second break of the opening set. He served for the set in the next game, hitting his fourth ace of the match to seal the opener, 6-2.
While Bautista Agut had a better first serve percentage than Federer, 79% to 67%, the Swiss superstar won 81% of those first serve points, whereas Bautista Agut only won 48% of his first serve points.
Federer seals quarterfinal berth with late break
The 17-time Grand Slam champion seemed poised to break Bautista Agut in the opening game of the second set, earning a break chance right away; however, the 14th seed held strong before holding. In the next game, Federer’s first service game of the set, the Spaniard went on the offensive this time, racing out to a 0-40 advantage, amassing three break chances, his first of the entire match.
However, as always, Federer’s clutch first serve got him out of the mess as he was able to save all three break chances before holding. After these break looks for both players, neither had any more over the next few service games. In the ninth game, with the match tied at 4 games all, Federer made his push.
Suddenly, he was up 0-30 on Bautista Agut’s serve. On the next point, Federer hit a blazing return that landed right at the 14th seed’s feet on the baseline, causing the error, and giving Federer three break chances of his own. Unlike Federer earlier in the set, Bautista Agut was unable to save the break chances, as the Swiss Maestro converted his first break chance for the 5-4 advantage.
Soon enough, after creating three match points, Federer took the match with a serve and volley winner. The Fed-Express earned his 30th overall win in Monte Carlo, where he is a four-time finalist, as he easily moved one-step closer to vying for his first career title at the Masters 1000 Series event.
Overall, Federer hit 29 winners, compared to 21 unforced errors. On clay, where the margins are so small, having more winners than unforced errors is always a great indicator of a victory and a great performance. Federer played excellent tennis as always. Bautista Agut only hit eight winners as compared to 21 unforced errors.
The Swiss number one was equally effective at the net, winning 18 of 25 points when he approached. At 34-years old, Federer looks for any opportunity to shorten points, while also remaining effective. This victory marks Federer’s fifth in a row over the Spaniard, including 12 sets won out of 12 sets played.
Federer advances into the quarterfinals where he will face eigth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated Lucas Pouille earlier today. Federer owns an 11-5 head-to-head over the Frenchman. On clay, Federer leads two victories to one. The two last met in 2014 at the Canadien Masters in Toronto, where Tsonga upset the Swiss number one in the finals.