Roger Federer needed five set points and six match points, but managed to subdue the spirited Jan Hajek in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the bet-at-home Open – German Tennis Championships in Hamburg. Federer is a four time winner at the tournament but hasn’t played there since losing the finals in 2008. Federer squandered many chances before eventually clinching a 6-4, 6-3 victory in an hour and 12 minutes.
Federer won the toss and served first. But an overcooked forehand and a shanked backhand made one wonder if he was still uneasy with his new stick – a 98” Wilson. The true identity of the racket is still a mystery, with Federer having it blacked out for the week. The shanked backhand left him facing break point, but the world No. 5 rallied with an ace and an aesthetic backhand up the line winner to hold serve.
Federer broke serve at 15 in the fourth game to control of the set, but let the leash slip out of his hands almost immediately. The utility of Federer’s new wand was on full display when he struck a running forehand cross court winner on the stretch to get to 30-30 in the fifth game. But Hajek won the next two points, the second with a net cord to break back the Swiss legend.
Hajek was in a spot of bother at 0-30 in the next game, but Federer made too many errors to let the Czech off the hook. In the seventh game, Hajek matched Federer stroke for stroke, before striking a backhand cross court winner to go up 15-30. Federer courted trouble when he shanked another forehand to concede the third break point off his serve. Fortunately for the Swiss, he found the range on his backhand to prevent another break.
Hajek was down a break point in the crucial eighth game, but bailed himself from trouble with an ace followed by an inside out backhand winner. Federer chose an opportune time to impose himself, with hold to love in the ninth game – with his most impressive showing of the afternoon. Federer eventually took the first set at the fifth time of asking after a lengthy tenth game that ended when Hajek courted the net on two consecutive points.
The second set proceeded on serve to the sixth game, where Federer earned a couple of break points with an inside out forehand winner. Hajek sailed a backhand wide on the next point to surrender the break. Duelling with purpose, Hajek forced deuce in the next game with Federer serving to take a commanding 5-2 lead in the second set. But the Swiss produced a couple of fiery serves to quell the threat and reach within a game of the quarter-finals.
Federer played a splendid off-balance overhead smash to squeeze his foot in the door at 15-30 and Hajek offered match point with a backhand that sailed too far. But Federer shanked his forehand yet again to squander the opportunity. A third opportunity went begging when Federer dumped his return in the net. A sweetly executed cross court backhand off a half volley at the net gave the Swiss a fourth match point, but a shanked backhand spent it for nothing.
Eventually, Hajek held serve but Federer raced to victory in the next game serving out the match without any further drama. Federer has never lost before the finals of this tournament since 2004, but has been shaky in his two matches so far before prevailing in the end. It is difficult to say whether it is switching back to clay from grass or it is the new racket, but Federer will need to raise his game quickly if he is to harbour any chances of victory this week.
In other matches, Juan Monaco fought his way past Benoit Paire in three sets – 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The Argentine will face Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals. Qualifier Federico Delbonis continued his good run, ousting Dmitry Tursunov in straight sets to reach the last eight. The 114th ranked player from Azul in Argentina will take on another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco to fight for a place in the semis. Verdasco did not need a full match, with Jerzy Janowicz retiring due to an injury while trailing 5-7, 0-4.
The second seeded Tommy Haas, who hails from Hamburg but have never won here, raced to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Carlos Berlocq to set up a last eight clash with last week’s winner Fabio Fognini. The Italian is coming off a maiden tour title in Stuttgart. Fognini was also victor by an identical 6-2, 6-4 score line over Marcel Granollers.
In the quarterfinal, Federer will face Florian Mayer, who defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-2 later in the day.