Federer beats Simon in 3 tough sets in Swiss Indoors QFs

              Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a ball to Gilles Simon of France during their quarter-final match at the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament at the St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. (Alexandra Wey/Keystone via AP)

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer was pushed hard to beat Gilles Simon 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 in the Swiss Indoors quarterfinals on Friday.

Top-seeded Federer clinched after more than 2-1/2 hours on court, breaking Simon’s serve when the 32nd-ranked Frenchman sent a backhand long from the baseline.

Federer puffed out his cheeks in a gesture of relief when taking the applause from his hometown crowd in Basel, where he seeks a ninth career title.

In the first set won by Federer, Simon failed to hold serve at 5-3 up and held a set-point chance before the tiebreaker.

Federer broke early in the deciding set, then lost his serve to love in the seventh game before forcing the key service break.

Federer improved to 7-2 in his career against Simon, though both losses came 10 years ago in their first two meetings on tour. The veteran players now have a combined age of 70.

Federer’s opponent in Saturday’s semifinals is seventh-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who beat fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The 20th-ranked Russian now is 3-0 this season against the 16th-ranked Tsitsipas.

Earlier Friday, second-seeded Alexander Zverev won 7-5, 6-3 against Roberto Bautista Agut, the eighth-seeded Spaniard.

Zverev faces 93rd-ranked Marius Copil in the semifinals. The Romanian qualifier, who eliminated former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in the second round, has still to drop a set after beating American wild card Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 7-5.