Thiem prevails over Federer

Austria’s Dominic Thiem reacts after winning a point against Switzerland’s Roger Federer on Friday. REUTERS

Dominic Thiem edged a thrilling clash with Roger Federer 3-6 7-6(11) 6-4 to end the Swiss veteran’s clay season comeback and reach the Madrid Open semifinals on Friday.

The fifth-seeded Austrian, who saved two match points, will face Novak Djokovic on Saturday after the world number one’s opponent Marin Cilic withdrew with food poisoning.

Federer raced into a 4-1 lead inside 15 minutes as he broke the 220 kilometres-per-hour barrier with some powerful serving.

The Frenchman had then battled back to force a thrilling tie-break finale in the third set, and Thiem upped his game significantly too, taking the second set to the wire.

Federer survived three game points to hold serve for 3-3 before Thiem eventually triumphed 13-11 in a gripping tie-break, saving two match points to force a decider.

Thiem broke to go 2-1 in the third. Federer broke back to pull level at 4-4 but the Austrian broke again in the next game, sealing it with a sensational forehand over his opponent before serving out the match.

His next opponent, seeded one, will be well rested after Cilic’s unfortunate exit.

“Today was so close, I was really lucky...,” said Thiem.

“Roger is playing really well on clay so I am really happy. He’s so special, maybe the best player ever in tennis. It’s so tough every single time you play against him, it´s pure beauty how he plays the game, every point against him is a challenge.”

Federer said he was happy to have made his clay court comeback.

“I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said.

In Friday’s other quarterfinals, Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Alexander Zverev and second seeded Rafael Nadal, who dispatched Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, plays Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss completed a national hat-trick on the day, beating Japan’s sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

Earlier, Simona Halep reached her fourth Madrid Open final with a 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-0 win over Belinda Bencic.

The world number three will move back to the top of the WTA rankings with a win in Saturday’s final against either Kiki Bertens or Sloane Stephens. “It’s a nice feeling to be back in the final of this special tournament,” said Halep.

“In the second set in that tie-break I was rushing too much, I lost control of it, but then I just calmed down, told myself I had to start the match again.

On Thursday, Czech second seed Petra Kvitova was also a shock loser, going down 6-2, 6-3 to Kiki Bertens, the Dutch seventh seed who was runner-up in the 2018 final.

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