September 3, 2014 in Sports

Resurgent Federer back in quarterfinals

Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – Pushing forward whenever possible, Roger Federer got back to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the 10th time in 11 years with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday night.

The one exception in that run of Flushing Meadows quarterfinals came in 2013, when Federer lost to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round. That was part of a stretch in which the 17-time Grand Slam title winner was bounced before the quarters three times in the span of four majors.

But things are different these days for the 33-year-old Federer. He’s no longer bothered by a bad back. And he’s no longer fiddling with trying to find the right racket, having settled on a new model with a larger head that he seems to be enjoying.

At Wimbledon in July, he got to his first Grand Slam final in two years, and even though he lost that match to Novak Djokovic, it signaled a real resurgence. On a windy evening against Bautista Agut, Federer moved well and won the point on 35 of 52 trips to the net.

“I’m happy I’m able to come forward now because … coming to net requires a lot of agility and explosivity and all that stuff – and I have it back,” said Federer, a five-time champion at Flushing Meadows. “I’m happy I’m feeling good at net, too, because you’ve got to anticipate some and read some and it’s working really well. So I hope I can keep it up.”

In all, the second-seeded Federer needed less than two hours to improve to 25-1 in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Monfils fun to watch

Gael Monfils follows his own rules.

The guy does things on a tennis court no one else has – or can. Just search his name on YouTube and watch any of many video clips showcasing his speed and agility; start with the parallel-to-the-ground, a-few-feet-in-the-air dive at this year’s French Open.

He sips soda during breaks in his matches, raising the can in a toast to his agent.

He is currently without any coach at all, in an era when some players have two.

What Monfils has never done, despite all his talent – and in some cases, because he has appeared to value style over substance right there on court, in the middle of a point, preferring the spectacular to the sufficient – is reach a Grand Slam final. He took a step closer Tuesday at the U.S. Open during a surprisingly matter-of-fact 7-5, 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory in the fourth round over No. 7-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, a man considered one of the sport’s up-and-comers.

There is a narrative building around the 20th-seeded Monfils’ success so far this year at Flushing Meadows, where he hasn’t dropped a set en route to reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010: He has matured, is playing more carefully, more seriously.

The Frenchman, who will face Roger Federer for a spot in the semifinals, rejected that notion after Tuesday’s win.

“I’m the same. So I will say I’m a bit more lucky than I was maybe sometime in the past. I think I haven’t changed a lot, to be honest. I haven’t changed a lot,” Monfils said.

Shuai ends drought

Peng Shuai got so frustrated with her inability to make a serious run at a major title that she nearly quit the sport in 2006, a thought that crossed her mind only once before when she had surgery to repair a heart defect at age 12.

But her day finally came Tuesday when Peng beat 17-year-old Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1 in the U.S. Open to earn a spot in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in 37 tries. Only five women have participated in more major tournaments before getting to a final four.

“My coach, my parents, they always tell me to try to keep going and never, ever give up. … Today was coming,” said the 28-year-old Peng.

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