Roger Federer’s more aggressive, net-rushing game has set up a quarter-final clash with Frenchman Gael Monfils as he targets grand slam title No.18 at the US Open.
A year ago Federer was dealing with a bad back. He was experimenting with new racquets. And his nine-year run quarter-finals in New York ended with a fourth-round loss.
Things are very different now for the 33-year-old Swiss great.
Enjoying his new racquet with a larger head, healthy enough to train properly and push forward whenever possible, Federer surged to a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday night.
It set up a clash with 20th seed Monfils, who reached his second US Open quarter-final by toppling seventh-seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.
On a windy evening against Bautista Agut, Federer displayed his aggressive intentions under the coaching guidance of serve-volley master Stefan Edberg, making 52 trips to the net and winning the point 35 times.
“Coming to net requires a lot of agility and explosivity and all that stuff – and I have it back,” said Federer, a five-time US Open champions.
“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.”
Federer’s resurgence was evident at Wimbledon in July when he reached his first grand slam final in two years, even though he lost that match to Novak Djokovic.
“Now I have my confidence back. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“Because of the (back) issues I had last year, I had to be unbelievably careful what I did. We had to cut back on a few things I usually would do, but were scared to do.
“I’m happy that basically today I can do whatever and I don’t have any more setbacks.”
Federer has won seven of his nine past meetings with Monfils, including at a hard-court tuneup tournament in Mason, Ohio, last month.
“He’s one of the most exciting and entertaining players out there,” Federer said, “so I think we can get ready for some good points – some good retrieving by him, some attacking by me.”
In Tuesday’s other men’s matches, Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych reached the quarter-finals with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win over Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
He will next tackle Croatia’s Marin Cilic 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.
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 on Wednesday with Djokovic taking on fellow former champion Andy Murray and Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka facing Kei Nishikori of Japan.