Big three into Madrid last-eight as Osaka and Kvitova crash out

Federer took two hours to dispose of his opponent. (Reuters pic)

MADRID: Roger Federer saved two match points to defeat Gael Monfils and reach the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Thursday but women’s world No 1 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.

Czech second seed Petra Kvitova, the defending champion, 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.

Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic, however, motored into the last eight as he hammered Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) while five-time champion Rafael Nadal dispatched Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal will next play Stan Wawrinka after the Swiss completed a national hat-trick on the day, beating Japan’s sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Defending champion Alexander Zverev came from breaks down in both of the last two sets to get past error-prone Pole Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 and now plays eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 6-3, 6-4 winner against Fernando Verdasco.

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.”

‘Too negative’

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.

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.

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