Pushing forward whenever possible, Roger Federer got back to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the 10th time in 11 years with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday night.
The one exception in that run of Flushing Meadows quarterfinals came in 2013, when Federer lost to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round. That was part of a stretch in which the 17-time Grand Slam title winner was bounced before the quarters three times in the span of four majors.
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But things are different these days for the 33-year-old Federer. He’s no longer bothered by a bad back. And he’s no longer fiddling with trying to find the right racket, having settled on a new model with a larger head that he seems to be enjoying.
At Wimbledon in July, he got to his first Grand Slam final in two years, and even though he lost that match to Novak Djokovic, it signaled a real resurgence. On a windy evening against Bautista Agut, Federer moved well and won the point on 35 of 52 trips to the net.
”I’m happy I’m able to come forward now because … coming to net requires a lot of agility and explosivity and all that stuff – and I have it back,” said Federer, a five-time champion at Flushing Meadows. ”I’m happy I’m feeling good at net, too, because you’ve got to anticipate some and read some and it’s working really well. So I hope I can keep it up.”
Federer was broken only once, part of a three-game run for Bautista Agut that took the score from 5-1 to 5-4 in the first set. But Federer had no trouble the second time he tried to serve out that set, which he ended with a pair of aces.
In all, the second-seeded Federer needed less than two hours to improve to 25-1 in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium. This was Bautista Agut’s first such occasion in the imposing, 23,771-capacity arena.
”Night session is very, very special here in New York,” Federer said in an on-court interview.
Federer is 71-9 overall at the U.S. Open, tying Pete Sampras and Bill Tilden for the fifth-most match wins in tournament history behind Jimmy Connors’ 98. Federer’s .888 winning percentage is second behind the .910 of Tilden, who went 71-7 and won seven championships in the 1920s.
In Thursday’s quarterfinals, Federer will play 20th-seeded Gael Monfils of France.
Federer has won seven of their nine past meetings, including at a hard-court tuneup tournament in Mason, Ohio, last month.
”He’s one of the most exciting and entertaining players out there,” Federer said, ”so I think we can get ready for some good points – some good retrieving by him, some attacking by me.”