In a late-night battle that finished just before midnight in Cincinnati, Roger Federer was still standing after a long day of tennis at the Western and Southern Open. After a straight-sets win earlier in the day, the second seed outlasted countryman Stan Wawrinka in a tough three-setter to advance to the semifinals in Cincinnati.
Federer was dominant on serve, but that nearly wasn’t enough as he dropped the opening set in a breaker and was two points from defeat in the second. But after leveling the match and waiting out some lightning, the seven-time Cincinnati champion wore down his countryman, racing through the final set for a 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-2 victory.
Wawrinka escapes in tiebreak
The first set was dominated by the servers. In four of the first five games the returner did not win more than a point. That pattern was dramatically broken in the sixth game when Wawrinka sent a backhand long to go down 15-40. Federer would fail to convert either break point opportunity, missing a forehand on the first and a backhand passing shot on the second.
The dominant serving pattern promptly resumed until Wawrinka served to stay in the set at 5-6. Again, Federer went up 15-40 but could not convert either, including another passing shot that narrowly missed. Wawrinka would hold to send the set to a tiebreak.
In the breaker, two bad volleys cost the second seed. Serving at 1-2, Federer pushed Wawrinka well off the court with a wide serve but with the whole court to put it in, Federer dumped his smash into the net. On the next point, he sent a swinging volley long to give the double minibreak to his opponent. Wawrinka would run the lead to 6-1 and converted his second set point when Federer was caught attempting a serve and volley and was passed with a strong return.
Federer returns the favour
The second set was nearly identical to the opener. Through the first ten games, the best either returner did was get to 30 and there were no break points. Generally, when the serve was returned, which it often wasn’t, the server dominated the ensuing rally. There were some shaky moments and poor errors from both men, but generally they were holding serve comfortably.
The closest call came at 5-all when Wawrinka blew a 40-love lead to let Federer back to deuce. At deuce, a few Federer shots caught the baseline leading to Wawrinka driving a backhand into the net. On break point, Wawrinka cracked a big serve that Federer returned into the net. That would be the only break point of the set, which required a tiebreak.
After Wawrinka netted a volley on the very first point to go down a minibreak, it appeared that Federer would ride it into a final set as the next nine points went with serve. Federer would win an epic rally to go up 6-4 and seemingly had the set wrapped up when his serve was returned into the midcourt. However, the second seed shanked his forehand well long. There was still another set point on Wawrinka’s serve, but Federer sliced a backhand long.
Knotted at six, Wawrinka blinked. First, Federer pulled him out wide with a forehand and he went for a winner up the line but missed it wide to give his countryman another set point on his own serve. Again Wawrinka would go for a winner down the line, this time with a backhand, and again missed wide to hand the set to Federer.
Second seed sails into semis
The pair only managed to play two points at the start of the set before being forced to retreat to the locker rooms due to lightning in the area. When they returned, Federer polished off a love hold with two quick points.
Coming out of the break, Federer was completely in charge. He had an opening in Wawrinka’s first service game, going ahead love-30, only for Wawrinka to power his way out of the jam with four straight points on the heels of some big serves. In his next service game, Wawrinka blew a 40-15 lead and netted a forehand to go down 40-AD, but managed to find the line with a backhand winner to stay alive.
At 2-3, Wawrinka sent a backhand long to go down 15-40. He saved the first break point with an ace, but finally a low passing shot from Federer was sent long for the first break of the match. That seemed to open the floodgates as the second seed consolidated to love before going back to work on his countryman’s serve.
At 5-2, some strong hitting from Federer resulted in errors and a love-40, triple match point opportunity. Wawrinka fired his forehand long to give Federer a hard-fought victory. Federer won the last nine points of the match in a row.
By the numbers
Both men were taking big cuts at the ball and the numbers showed it. Both had more unforced errors than winners; Federer had 31 to 24, while Wawrinka had 23 to 27. In the end, Wawrinka had very few chances on the Federer serve. The older Swiss won 84 percent of his first serve points, 75 of his second serves, and did not face a break point in the match.
Federer will meet David Goffin in the semifinals.