Roger Federer conceded he was “struggling a bit” before eventually beating Fernando Verdasco and advancing to the last eight of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
The Swiss, a seven-time champion in Dubai, is bidding to win his 100th ATP Tour tile in the United Arab Emirates but has needed three sets to beat both Philippe Kohlschreiber and Verdasco so far.
As he did against Kohlschreiber, Federer lost the second set against Verdasco before coming through in the decider to secure a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory.
The second seed produced 12 unforced errors in that second set and needed to dig deep to ensure Verdasco did not beat him for the first time in their seventh meeting.
“I think it was very tricky,” Federer said in his on-court interview after the match.
“I think he got off to a slow start, especially on his serve, and that was the story of the first set. I think he played much better in the second set, I might have had a few chances there but he was really able to raise his game and for some reason I couldn’t stay with him.
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“So, third set here we come and it’s always going to be a close one when you can’t break in the first couple of games.”
Federer explained that Verdasco’s variety of serves caused him issues and it took a net-cord winner in the deciding set for him to bring up his first break point, which he crucially converted to go 5-3 up before serving out to love for the match.
“I was trying to make more returns because I was struggling on the returns a little bit – obviously against Kohlschreiber too in the wind,” he added.
“Fernando goes in spells. He serves the really hard one then the spinning one, then the sliding one. He combines it very well with his forehand after that.
“All of a sudden you’re not getting that many looks and I was struggling a bit out here.
“But it’s all good, I found a way at the end. These are the matches you have to come through somehow.”
Federer will now meet Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the last eight.