Madrid: Dominic Thiem saved two match points and ended the first chapter of Roger Federer’s return to clay court tennis with a come-from-behind 3-6, 7-6 (13/11), 6-4 win and reach the Madrid Open semi-finals on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Swiss had returned this week to the surface for the first time in three years – his last clay court match was a loss to Thiem in Rome in 2016.
While Federer was heading out, there were no such problems for top seed Novak Djokovic who made the last-four when Marin Cilic withdrew and Rafael Nadal, the second seed, who brushed aside Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2.
Thiem, the 2018 Roland Garros runner-up and winner of the Barcelona title last month, prevailed in two hours 10 minutes against Federer having saved two match points in a 15-minute second set tie-break.
He will on Sunday face world number one Djokovic, who advanced on a walkover when Cilic pulled out with a stomach virus.
Five-time champion Nadal needed just over an hour to reach his 11th Madrid semi-final and will face Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, a winner over defending champion Alexander Zverev by 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
“It was a good match for me, Stan is not an easy opponent regardless of the scoreline,” said Nadal after his 14th quarter-final in the last 15 years in the Spanish capital.
“I had to play good tennis and reach my best level,” he added.