ROME: World number three Roger Federer saved two match points to advance past Croatian Borna Coric into the quarter-finals of the Italian Open late last night on a day when the top stars provided double delights by winning two matches each.
Federer came through 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) against 13th seed Coric after earlier beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-3 in the second round to make up time after rain wiped out play on Wednesday.
Federer, a four-time finalist in Rome, next meets either Greek eighth-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Italian Fabio Fognini, seeded 10th, for a place in the semi-finals.
Holder Rafael Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic also romped into the last eight with straight sets wins on a day featuring double bills for the top seeds after rain wiped out Wednesday’s play, with the Spaniard dropping only two games.
The 37-year-old fan favourite Federer rolled back the years to beat Sousa 6-3 6-4 in the morning before staging a gritty comeback to edge Coric after saving two match points in the third-set tiebreak.
The Swiss maestro had looked every bit his age in the opening set against Coric, 15 years his junior, as the Croatian pummelled his rival with stinging baseline shots.
Federer bounced back in the second as he carved out a 5-2 lead and clinched the set after Coric, who briefly stayed in it with a break of serve, sent a forehand beyond the baseline.
With both players producing an array of spectacular shots, games went with serve all the way to the tiebreak, when Federer produced his best shots with his back against the wall.
“It was very tight and I got lucky again,” a delighted Federer said in a courtside interview. “The atmosphere was fantastic, exactly how you want the atmosphere to be.”
Second seed Nadal blew away Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-0 6-1 earlier in the day before breezing past Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 6-0 and Djokovic spent a mere two hours and 10 minutes on the court in total.
The top seed brushed aside Denis Shapovalov 6-1 6-3 followed by a 6-3 6-0 destruction of Philipp Kohlschreiber in the late match on Centre Court.
“It’s not the first and probably not the last time that I’ve had to play two matches in a day,” he said.
“I’ve been playing well, feeling well, high confidence, and I want to keep on going.”
Meanwhile, world number four Dominic Thiem slammed tournament organisers after he was dumped out 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 by Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
Austrian Thiem complained competitors were left hanging around during the rain-impacted day 24 hours earlier.
“I really dislike how we players get treated at this tournament because yesterday was, in my opinion, not acceptable,” said last year’s French Open runner-up.
“I’m quite pxx about it. I was tired, exhausted, today because of all these shitty things,” he added.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the sixth seed, got past American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4 and next meets Jan-Lennard Struff.
In the women’s section, Japan’s Naomi Osaka won twice yesterday to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals, retaining the world number one ranking ahead of the start of the French Open next week.
She eased into the last eight in Rome with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Osaka beat the 29th-ranked Romanian in 78 minutes after earlier beating Slovak Dominika Cibulkova by the same scoreline in one hour and 42 minutes in the second round, as players doubled up after the previous day was washed out.
At the start of the day, the 21-year-old had needed to make the quarter-finals to ensure Romanian Simona Halep could not swipe the number one ranking and with it top seeding in the French Open.
But Osaka’s top spot was guaranteed when reigning Roland Garros champion Halep fell to Czech Marketa Vondrousova 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round.
Osaka retains World No. 1 rank - Page 23
Collated results in Results Panel - Page 20