NEW YORK: Five-time champion Roger Federer set up a US Open quarter-final blockbuster against eccentric French star Gael Monfils yesterday as the hugely-hyped new generation once again flopped.
Second seed Federer reached his 10th US Open quarter-final in the last 11 years with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut while Monfils, the 20th seed, reached his second New York last-eight stunning seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 7-5
Federer, the 17-time major winner, leads Monfils 7-2 in career meetings, including their most recent clash in Cincinnati last month.
“It was a tough three-setter in Cincinnati,” said Federer after winning his 25th night-time match.
“Gael has been playing some great tennis, he’s always very entertaining. I’m sure we’ll see lots of retrieving by him and attacking by me.”
Federer was barely troubled by Bautista Agut, the 17th seed who was trying to make a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time.
He broke in the third and fifth games for a 4-1 lead and despite surrendering one of the breaks in the eighth game, two successive aces sealed the opening set and there was no looking back for the 33-year-old.
Crowd favourite Monfils overcame a dramatic loss of composure in the second set to reach his second US Open quarter-final, four years after his first. “It’s my first ever win on the Ashe Stadium which is great,” said Monfils, who turned 28 on Monday and whose best performance at a major remains his run to the semi-finals at the 2008 French Open where he was defeated by Federer.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Dimitrov, 23, was hoping to reach his third quarter-final at the majors this year but despite occasional breath-taking shot-making, he was undone by 38 unforced errors. Monfils, who hasn’t dropped a set at the tournament, raced through the first set on the back of a break for a 6-5 lead.
The Frenchman was another break to the good at 4-2 in the second before he got embroiled in a brief war of words over distractions on the court.
Still seething, the Parisian surrendered a break point by not returning the ball in the eighth game.
But he bounced back in impressive style, saving two set points in the tiebreak before winning four points in a row to open a two sets to love lead.
Dimitrov, who had never won a match in New York on his three previous visits, was facing having to come back from two sets to love down for the first time in his career. He then added to the drama, albeit unintentionally, when he had to leave the court to replace his shoes which came apart early in the third set.
But his luck didn’t change and his campaign was over when he served up his fourth double fault of the tie.
Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych reached the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
Berdych, a semi-finalist in 2012, saved seven break points in the first set against the 20-year-old Austrian, but it was plain sailing after that mini-scare as he wrapped up victory in just 98 minutes.
He will next tackle Croatia’s Marin Cilic for a place in the semi-finals after the 14th seeded Croatian reached his third US Open quarter-final with a 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over France’s Gilles Simon. Cilic, also a quarter-finalist in 2009 and 2012, hit 23 aces, 70 winners and committed 76 unforced errors in the four hour 13 minute clash.
His victory comes 12 months after he was forced to miss the tournament as he sat out a doping ban.
Berdych has a 5-3 career lead over Cilic but the Croatian won their most recent meeting in straights sets in the Wimbledon third round.
The quarter-finals in the top half of the draw take place later yesterday with world number one Novak Djokovic taking on Andy Murray and Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka facing Kei Nishikori of Japan.