Federer saves 2 match points to beat Monfils in Madrid

Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates winning his third round match against France's Gael Monfils. Reuters photo

Roger Federer saved two match points to defeat Gael Monfils and reach the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Thursday but women's world number one and top seed Naomi Osaka was dumped out in a last-eight shock.

Federer, playing only his second match of a 2019 comeback to clay after three years away, needed two hours to defeat French showman Monfils 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3).

Osaka fell for the second time in two months to Federer's Swiss compatriot Belinda Bencic, exiting 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. Bencic also beat the double Grand Slam winner in March at Indian Wells.

Men's top seed Novak Djokovic, however, motored into the last eight as he hammered Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 7-6 (7/2).

Federer admitted he struggled to get past the talented Monfils, seeded 15th, before recording his 1,200th career win.

It took a comeback from 4-1 down in the final set after sweeping the first set in 18 minutes, combined with a dominating tiebreak for the Swiss fourth seed to advance.

Federer said nothing was decided until the end of a match played in difficult swirling winds and challenging conditions.

"I had a tough run of five losing games late in the second and into the third," said the 20-time Grand Slam champion who will face Austrian fifth seed and recent Barcelona champion Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals.

"I just hung in there, saving two match points (to force a final-set tiebreaker).

"It was a very stressful situation. Now that I'm through it, I'm very excited with the win.

"This match gave me a lot of information, it showed how tricky clay can be with the wind and everything. But I tried to take the bad bounces and the rest and just play positive tennis."

Against an inspired Bencic, Osaka served for the match in the third set leading 5-4, but could not touch a backhand return winner.

"When you play against a good player, you have to expect that they are going to play great at times," Osaka said.

"I feel like I was negative on myself, but I tried to fix it in the third set. But my service percentage was down."

Djokovic, who now boasts a staggering 66-2 record against French players, said he is slowly lifting his clay game.

"I felt good on the court in general and played well," Djokovic said.

"Coming into the match I had confidence knowing I'd never lost to my opponent."

The Madrid champion in 2011 and 2016 is searching for his top clay form as he begins the chase for a fourth straight Grand Slam title when Roland Garros starts in a little over two weeks.

Djokovic next faces ninth seed Marin Cilic after the Croatian put out Laslo Djere 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, winning 11 of the last 13 games.

Thiem, the 2018 runner-up, defeated Monte Carlo winner Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-5 while Stan Wawrinka made it a Swiss hat-trick on the day, beating Japan's sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

Two-time women's champion Simona Halep overcame Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-5 to reach her fourth Madrid semi-final.

Romania's third seed and former world number one will next play Bencic.

"For me, it's a huge victory, it's a huge match I played today," said Halep.

"It means a lot that to win. It was on clay so I liked my chances, but still, it was very difficult and every point was important."

Former US Open winner Sloane Stephens downed Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-3 in her quarter-final.

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