Madrid’s three-time champion Roger Federer reached the quarter-finals at the Caja Mágica in 2019 thanks to a thrilling 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 win over Gael Monfils in two hours, erasing two match points in the 12th deciding game. It was the 376th Masters 1000 victory for Roger and the 10th in 14 meetings against Gael, overcoming a slow start to the final set and holding his own on those match points to cross the finish line first in his first ATP clay tournament since Rome 2016. Roger won almost 20 points more than his rival, but still walked on the brink of defeat in the decisive moments, doing everything right in the first set and working much harder in the remaining two to move on. The Swiss delivered 33 winners and 25 unforced errors, dominating the shorter and medium rallies to forge victory and set up another entertaining clash against Dominic Thiem. Federer produced fury in the first set, dropping nine points overall and dodging both break opportunities to keep pressure on the other side of the net. Gael never seemed like a dangerous opponent at the time, taking five points on serve and finding himself 6-0 down after 18 minutes. Roger took a break in the first game when Gael hit a long backhand and repelled those two break opportunities in the next to confirm the break and solidify the lead. The Swiss broke to forge a 3-0 lead after the Frenchman’s volley error and advanced 4-0 with a winning serve. Pressing hard, Federer scored the third consecutive break after Gael’s backhand error and hit three service winners for 6-0, looking good to seal the deal in no time and advance to the next round. Suddenly, Monfils found his rhythm early in the second set, winning a much-needed serve turn in the first game and breaking Roger with a forehand winner to advance for the first time. Federer bounced back in the seventh game after the Frenchman’s double fault and had another break point opportunity at 4-4 that could have secured him the win. Keeping his focus on a high level, Monfils erased him with a winning volley and made another push on the return in the 10th game when he seized a crucial 6-4 break after a loose forehand from the Swiss. Driven by this momentum, Gael broke in the second game of the decider and saved a break point a few minutes later to take a 3-0 lead and increase his chances of defeating a great rival. Roger introduced some of his old magic to push back the break with a backhand punch that hit back, creating another break opportunity at 5-5. Gael saved him and brought the game home with two excellent points, staying ahead and sending the pressure to the other side. Federer felt it big, saving two match points with well-constructed attacks to send the match into a decisive tiebreaker that he won 7-2 after a winning serve, sealing the deal and securing a place in the quarters.
Boris Becker on the GOAT debate
In an interview with the BBC, Djokovic’s former coaches Boris Becker and Nikola Pilic, along with current coach Goran Ivanisevic, weighed in on the Serb’s career and prospects at Roland Garros this year, among other topics. “There’s the one on the court – the machine-like, Zen-like, businesslike competitor that wants to win no matter what,” the German said. “And then you’ve got the Novak off the court, who is a sweetheart – loves his family, loves his charity, loves his country – and he would give you his last shirt if you needed one. So you have these two sides that fight with one another sometimes on the court and I think that’s why people sometimes don’t understand or criticise him (Novak Djokovic) because they see this fierce competitor that can be ugly at times. But it all comes from a good place.” Becker also spoke about the Grand Slam title race between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. “Nadal is ahead, in my book, because of the way he plays the game,” Becker said. “I would rate Federer as the most talented I have ever seen, I would rate Djokovic as the most fierce I have ever seen, but Nadal, boy, when he gets going and picks his shorts and the eyebrows, I wouldn’t want to play him on any surface.”