After downing the giant big-server John Isner in round four, Roger Federer will continue his quest for Grand Slam title No. 18 with a very different challenge against the flair of Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Federer triumphed in two tiebreaks en route to a fourth successive straight-sets victory at this year’s U.S. Open. And he will be targeting similarly smooth progress in Wednesday’s quarterfinal under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.
At the age of 34, Federer is already defying the traditional career trajectory of the world’s top male players by still competing at the sharp end of Grand Slams. Yet it is now more than three years since he last added to his record-breaking tally of Major titles, and he is all too aware that limiting his time on the court could be key to his chances. In last year’s U.S. Open, Federer was taken to five sets in the quarterfinals by Gael Monfils and was then flat in a straight-sets loss to Marin Cilic in the last four. While keen to avoid such a grueling challenge this time around, Federer is also confident that his extended layoff after Wimbledon has him in good shape.
“[Having less time on court] could be a difference,” he said after beating Isner. “I hope it will be. But if it's not, then I'll battle through tough matches. I've worked hard in the off-season. I gave myself that extra week to be in the gym, be on the practice courts. Thankfully it was nice and hot in Switzerland that time around. We also had around 90 degrees as I was practicing. So I feel like I could work on my game a little bit, I could rest up as well, so I come into now sort of the business end of the tournament with a good mindset and a good body. “
Certainly he has reason for confidence entering this year’s quarterfinal. Federer holds a 14-2 head-to-head advantage against Gasquet, with both his defeats coming on clay, and the most recent more than four years ago. Unlike against the uncomfortable big-serving of Isner, history suggests that Gasquet, while tremendously gifted, has little to disrupt Federer if he is playing at a high level.
Still, the 29-year-old enters this latest meeting in fine form. After reaching his second-ever Wimbledon semifinal earlier this summer, Gasquet is now one win away from matching his best result at the U.S. Open. His path through to the last eight has not been easy, though. Five sets were required before young Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis retired in the first round and four sets were needed to beat Robin Haase in round two. But he impressed in overcoming the loss of the opening set to beat sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the last round. And Federer expects his toughest test yet against Gasquet.
“I'm not sure if I've seen maybe Gasquet play as well as he has right now,” he said. “I really like the way he played in Wimbledon, and also now here. I haven't seen that much. But the match I saw that he played against Stan [Wawrinka] and Novak [Djokovic] at Wimbledon was impressive. He had a good attitude. He was fighting. Good shot selection. Now he's backing it up. I'm sure he gained confidence from Wimbledon. That's why I expect it to be tougher than maybe in previous years against him.”
Scheduled start time: 7 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN2