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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Dubai Tennis: Roger Federer enjoying the 'challenge' after beating Marton Fucsovics to reach semi-finals

Seven-time champion wins 7-6, 6-4 to reach the last four, with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Gael Monfils also through

Roger Federer remains on course for his 100th ATP Tour singles title after battling through to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-final on a rain-disturbed Thursday night.

The 20-time grand slam champion, seeking an eighth success at the tournament, was made to work hard against Marton Fucsovics, finally dispatching the Hungarian world No 35 7-6, 6-4.

Federer, 37, battled back from two set points to take the first set on a close-run tie-break. The match had been earlier interrupted by rain at 5-5, prompting a 12-minute delay on Centre Court.

The rain again fell at a crucial juncture in the second set, however Federer kept his nerve to break Fucsovics to go 5-4 up. The Swiss converted, though, on his fifth break point. Critically, Federer had survived his own break point in the previous game.

To his credit, Fucsovics saved the first match point before succumbing to the second, as he forced a forehand wide. The match lasted one hour and 56 minutes.

Having sealed his 99th ATP career singles crown in Basel last October, Federer will resume his quest for triple figures on Friday.

Speaking on court following his 51st in Dubai, he said: “A lot of matches have not been easy – you can see it by how close all the matches have become. I know how hard it is to win at the top level now.

“However, I really enjoyed myself even though it was really tricky. It’s a challenge and that’s what I like.”

Federer will face in the last four either Croatian sixth seed Borna Coric or Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who played late Thursday.

In the other side of the draw, Gael Monfils continued his superb form with a 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 win against Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. The Frenchman, who in Rotterdam earlier this month lifted his eighth career ATP title, made it eight straight victories, surviving a mid-match wobble to come through in just short of two hours. The triumph set up his third semi-final of the season, just two months in.

In the last four, Monfils will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Hubert Hurkacz 7-6, 6-7, 6-1. The in-form Greek, the world No 11, arrived late in Dubai having won in Marseille on Sunday.

Seeded fifth this week, Tsitsipas was pushed to a third set by his Polish opponent on Thursday, the world No 77 who had no doubt been buoyed by his shock victory against No 1 seed Kei Nishikori the previous day.

However, Tsitsipas rebounded from losing a second-set tie-break by racing through the third, completing the match in two hours and 19 minutes.

Tsitsipas and Monfils are first up on Centre Court on Friday, with their match scheduled for 5pm.

Tsitsipas says he is using the motivation of breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time to spur his bid for victory in Dubai – and give him back-to-back ATP Tour titles.

“What it means? I'm thinking about it almost every day,” Tsitsipas said. “I want it badly. I want it to happen very much. I know I'll have to win a couple of crucial matches to get there. The point difference is pretty big. I'm going to have to dominate more.

“It's a good motivation, because I'm so close, to get it as early as possible. Me personally, I feel like I have the game to be there already, maybe even in the future, but as soon as possible. It's better if it happens as soon as possible. It's better for me, for my confidence as well.”

On the match-up with Monfils, he said: “We're both serving really well. We have similar game style. I guess I'm a bit more aggressive than him, but he's much faster.

“I'm going to have to deal with all of that, be patient, play with passion as well, just wait for the opportunities to break him. If I don't serve well, I'll have trouble.”

Updated: March 1, 2019 12:07 PM

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