ATP Masters 1000Mutua Madrid OpenRoger Federer

Federer Saves Two Match Points En Route to Monfils Win

The Swiss Maestro recorded his 1200th match win to move into the Madrid Quarter Finals

Roger Federer is into the Quarter Finals in Madrid after digging deep to save two match points for a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (3) win over the enigmatic Gael Monfils.

The three-time former champion looked set for a routine day at the office after winning the first set 6-0 in just 18 minutes, but Monfils bounced back with some heavy hitting, breaking Federer early in the second set to force a decider.

The Frenchman was in control at 4-1 in the third set and despite failing to hold onto his advantage had two match points to seal a fifth career win over Federer.

However, Roger showed his composure to hold serve, and he produced some solid tennis in the tiebreak to book his spot in the last eight.

Quick Match Recap

Federer Monfils Madrid

Federer won the digital coin toss and elected to receive. Monfils had made a terrible start in his match against Fucsovics yesterday and that trend continued as four unforced errors handed Roger the break.

The Frenchman is leading the league table for % of return games won in 2019, so it was no great surprise to see him fashion two break points back, but Roger recovered to lead 2-0.

That was quickly 3-0 thanks to more baseline hugging play from Roger that rushed Gael into making mistakes. 

A hold to fifteen put Federer up 4-0, and he broke for the third time en route to bageling Monfils to take the set 6-0 in just 18 minutes.

Like I said in my preview section of the Gasquet match recap post, you can never predict how Monfils will play, and in set two he cranked up his crank groundstrokes to turn the tables; quickly moving into a 2-0 lead. 

Gael consolidated the break and was soon into a 4-1 lead, but Roger was able to recover, aided by a Monfils double fault on break point in game seven.

A love hold saw Roger level at 4-4, and he then had a break point for 5-4, but Monfils dug in to hold. That gave Monfils a surge of energy, and he was able to break for the second time in the set to take it 6-4 and force a decider.

With Gael's weight of shot doing damage, he continued to pepper Federer's backhand to break for 2-0 in the third. 

A visibly annoyed Federer then launched a ball into Row Z and received a code violation. He then asked the umpire if the roof could be opened more due to the shade causing him visual problems on the court, but it wasn't possible.

Despite looking unfocused, Roger held a break point in game three but couldn't convert as Monfils held for 3-0. That was soon 4-1, and the Frenchman was firmly in the driving seat.

However a love hold from Federer gave him some momentum, and on the first point of the return game, he produced a huge forehand to win the first point. A breakpoint followed at 30-40 and a pinpoint down the line slice return left a serve and volleying Monfils in no man's land.

A hold to fifteen put Roger level at 4-4, and the pair then exchanged holds for 5-5. Like the second set, Roger again had a breakpoint at the death, but Monfils produced the goods to hold for 6-5.

With the pressure on Federer serving to stay in it, he followed a peRFect volley for 30-30 with a poor one to give Monfils a match point. A brave serve and volley behind his 2nd serve saved it, and the Swiss had to save a second before holding to force a tie break.

Into the tie break and Gael's wobbly second serve saw him double fault on the opening point. Roger took full advantage to lead 3-0 and was soon up a double mini-break for 4-1, maintaining his lead to take it 7-3.

Match Stats

  Roger Federer Gael Monfils
Aces 4 7
Double Faults 2 7
1st Serve 58% (49/84) 57% (60/105)
1st Serve Points Won 76% (37/49) 68% (41/60)
2nd Serve Points Won 60% (21/35) 40% (18/45)
Break Points Saved 63% (5/8) 62% (8/13)
Service Games Played 14 14
1st Serve Return Points Won 32% (19/60) 24% (12/49)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 60% (27/45) 40% (14/35)
Break Points Converted 38% (5/13) 38% (3/8)
Return Games Played 14 14
Winners 33 26
Unforced Errors 25 36
Net Points Won 74% (26/35) 44% (8/18)
Service Points Won 69% (58/84) 56% (59/105)
Return Points Won 44% (46/105) 31% (26/84)
Total Points Won 55% (104/189) 45% (85/189)

Shot of the Match


Thoughts on the Match

Federer Monfils Madrid Open 19

I think Gael did a nice job of not being frustrated after losing the first set and he learned from yesterday when he also lost the first set 6-1. So I think that helped him to stay calm. I tried to keep it going but it was difficult. I had a tough run of losing five games in a row at the end of the second set and the start of the third. Going down 3-0 and 4-1, it wasn’t looking good for a while but I hung in there like he did and it got decided in a tiebreaker. It was a highly stressful moment for me but I played a great tiebreaker, served well and mixed it up nicely so I’m very excited I was able to come through the match somehow. Federer in his post match interview

A fun match this one and I think it gives a good indication of what to expect from Roger on clay: he's going to find it tricky against heavy hitters who can get it up high on the backhand, but he won't go down without a fight and will stick to his guns until the end whatever happens.

Monfils was always going to pose more of a threat than the hobbled Gasquet, and I think the match was a good one for Roger as it was a tough workout.

Playing 18-minute blow out sets wasn't why Federer played on clay, so a tricky three setter is ideal and will have given him plenty of information as to where his game is at.

I know a lot of fans think Roger's decision to play clay is purely “because he is going to win Paris” but that's not Federer's main aim.

He said as much in the press earlier this week, revealing that a big part of his decision to play clay was to work on his fitness in the longer rallies. In fact Roger specifically referenced disappointment at not being able to handle the heat in New York which he partly attributes to lack of grinding out longer points earlier in the season.

You can see his full quote below:

This was more about preparing for extended rallies which I knew I wanted to work on because of the problems I had at the US Open with the heat. I just think a lot of things led to that problem at the US Open. I had a stiff back, I guess, from sort of post-Wimbledon until I end up pre-season as well a little bit and because I have been on the hard and grass courts for so long, rallies were always on the shorter side, I’d say, especially since Cincinnati anyway and it was mild and I had a desire to work again especially in fitness because the matches didn’t allow me to extend the rallies as much, you know, to work on playing longer points and that, obviously, is what you need on clay maybe. We’ll see. Maybe it will be just one game in Paris and it was all for nothing. Still, I think it helps for any surface, you know, to be really tough when the rallies go long. And I feel very strong right now. And obviously, we worked on that in December already. Federer on why he chose to play on clay

Based on the above, win or lose today the match was always going to be a good one. It just so happens to be even better because he won it in a third set tiebreaker and produced some quality tennis throughout. Plus he maintained his 90-0 W/L record when he bagels an opponent 🙂

Predictions vs Thiem

Fed Thiem

Next up is Dominic Thiem who had an impressive win against Fabio Fognini in what I hear was a high-quality match from both players.

Thiem is the form player right now, and he's made back to back finals in Madrid, so I think he heads into tomorrow's quarter-final as the favourite.

The Austrian has the power and the spin to cause Roger a lot of problems and Roger's three sets today might have taken a little bit out of him, so I expect Thiem to come out on top.

Much will depend on how Roger starts the match; if he's able to time it sweetly from the off and take it early from the baseline to take control in the first set, then he gives himself a fighting chance. That forces Thiem to produce the goods from behind, he managed it in Indian Wells, so we shall see what happens tomorrow. Should be a good one!

What did you guys think of the win against Monfils? Predictions against Thiem? Let me know in the comments.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. Roger is a match point down, 30/40 5-6, hits a second serve then rushes to the net. I’m thinking “This guy has watermelons for balls!”.
    Luckily he survived that point. 🙂

    I think his forehend side gave him some trouble today. Monfils attacked it for good reason. That 10th game in the second set was cheap. Cheap fh ue really.
    He also reacts a little slow on some points. Standing right on the baseline doesn’t give much margin for error.

    Anyways, I’m glad he faces Thiem. It’s a great test.
    Hope I can catch some top quality tennis tomorrow.

    Thanks for another good match report, J. 🙂

    1. That was a brave play. Glad it paid off 😀

      Forehand was ok I thought. I thought the opposite tbh, Monf attacked the backhand as on a higher bouncing ball it can’t produce good power. He went hard into the backhand, dragged Fed out wide, got a short ball and went into the open court. Stats back it up too tbh, 56% of FH’s and 59% of BH’s from Monfils went into the ad court. Served into BH more too.

      1. Watched the post match interview.
        Roger said that it was actually a panic move because he didn’t feel like he’s going to win the point from the baseline.
        😂 😂😂

  2. Thanks for the write up 😉
    When Fed went down 3 love in the third I thought it was all up for Fed in Madrid.
    Fortunately he had other ideas and started playing far more aggressively and coming into the net.
    A real nail-biter to get to the tie break and then it was game over.
    I watched the Fog/Thiem match. Very high standard and some lovely shot making from Fognini.
    However unforced errors and the sheer power of Thiem did for him.
    As for tomorrow,I hope that match hasn’t taken too much out of Roger.
    We shall see 😊

    1. Yeah 3-0 and 4-1 down didn’t look good. But you always know Monfils can do something wild. Wobbly on his second serve all match which helped.

      I saw Fed say he feels strong so be interesting to see how he moves out the corners.

    2. You missed two things.

      Thiem is no more sheer power. He uses power only for variation. Plays now more slice, dropshot. No more full back-swing on every shot.

      What you did miss at Fabio (who is an excellent player, somehow Fed-like), he is also clowning too much and distracting deliberately opponents, discussing with umpire, with the public a.s.o. . Not a very fair side of such an brilliant player.

      Thiem will not use sheer power against Fed. He has more tools now than many think.

      Because I’m fan of both, I can only say, I waited long for both to play each other on big stages. QF is not enough, and both deserve to be at least in SF.

      Should be a quality match of two serious players. Entertaining tricks of Monf are nice, but they make a tennis match to be a bit of showing himself. No such things from Thiem and from Fed, so this may be the best match of the tournament, whoever wins 🙂

      I don’t comment predictions, because it’s not meaningful, being fan of both opponents.

      Top tennis should win first.

      1. Why do you take “power player” as an insult? Thiem routinely overpowers players on clay. He will overpower Federer today most likely.

  3. Nice that he got so far, so good on clay. More than some expected. And 1200 is very impressive number of matches won. Well about tomorrow – well miracles happen sometimes. A chance he still has, our Fed.

  4. Saved 2 MPs and went on to win, yep was a “fun match” despite it made us aged few more years – Fedfan saga 😆
    Net goating Fed today, great to watch. Hope he’ll recover well for tomorrow vs Thiem. Allez!

    1. Thiem has to recover from two matches. He did play (and won) today doubles with Diego vs. very good doubles professionals – Marach&Pavic.

      So he did play a ind of 3 singles sets today too. In this aspect chances are even. Of course Thiem is younger and should recover better. But Fed has Paganini 😉

  5. I couldn’t watch after he was down 0-2 in the third set, too nervous (not like Fed who was as Schmelz described above (watermelons and nerves of steel). (But enjoyed watching the replay afterwards).
    No idea what will happen against Thiem but Roger always keeps us in suspense throughout a match.
    If he can succeed at the net, rather than with these endless rallies, there is hope, and that’s much more his style.
    What has happened to his first serve, it was fairly awful? His volleying was magical, beyond belief really.

    1. Endless rallies? It’s not Thiems’ style. Even if more of a baseliner than Fed, he never plays for opponent’s errors, rather for winners. Styles are different of course (and many other things) but both are aggressive.

    2. 41% FS first set – not good. I wondered what’d happened. Fortunately, he always has that second serve …

      Don’t think I like his chances too much against Thiem after 2 hours on court, but I guess we’ll see.

      1. Thiem spent more. 1,5 hours with Fabio, 1,5 hours in doubles.

        But both are not so tired, this could be a decisive factor.

        Decisive will be, who find (and executes( the better tactic and adapts better during the match. Meaning – the better player of the day wins.

        Thiems clay achievements cannot give him the win. Federer’s 20 slams and and can’t give him the win either 😉

      1. You can make the numbers lie. Just stats. You first know, what you want to prove. Then you take stats that “prove” it.

        Of course, who lies, are you (not meaning you, Jon), numbers tell only, what happened, they never say, why.

        The world of probability does not fir to sport.

        If you won last 10 matches, it can mean, you are probably in good form and with big chances to win next. Or – you must be emotionally and physically empty, so you probably lose the next ;).

  6. Thanks for the great coverage and comments. I’ve just signed on to this site and really enjoyed the play-by-play. I’m a BIG Federer fan so am looking forward to more info re Roger and his tournament play. One of the biggest moments of my life was meeting Roger at the LA Tennis Club when he was shooting a commercial here.

  7. Great write up, thought he battled well and used slice and net play tactics effectively, more so than Gael whose tactics fail him on key moments.
    Thiem was very good today and served particularly well. Fed will give him more of a mix of tempos but tbh I do expect Domi to win. Hoping Fed can play free and get some more info to go forward with.

    Fascinated by his long term vision with regard to USO. He was clearly frustrated by last year, gives me good vibes that he is so determined to do better this year . Allez

  8. As a fan of both Fed and Thiem, I will be happy whoever wins, but I hope it is an entertaining, competitive match. I think Dominic has the edge, he has been playing so well recently.

  9. Hoping he can somehow improve on his serve for tomorrow, otherwise he is going to find it difficult. But no matter what happens, those volleys were simply magical. Go Fed!

  10. His slice saves him today.. great win though… I think it was great that he faced La Monf before thiem it game him momentum for sure.. he kinda struggles chasing the ball in baseline so his best chance is in the net. serve and volley and some great serve.
    Gritting quarter finals for sure…

    Go! gO! Rogerio!!!

      1. It will be different with Thiem. Thiem can play long matches (this helps in slams), but not long rallies (like the old Djoko-Murray style).
        Monfils is defensive player, Thiem is not.

  11. I don’t see Roger winning against Thiem, not even competing. This would be a straight set affair with the scoreline like 6-3, 6-2. It now seems that best Roger can perform at RG is 4R if not 3R.


    1. I must disagree even if I would like such result. I expect, Thiem to win but the match will be for sure competitive. Federer has still lots of tools, coming from long experience of winning every kind of matches. His box with surprises is for sure bigger than Thiem’s.

      I would say – if you write Federer off before the match, you can start packing 😉

  12. Roger and I have something in common. For both of us the new favorite word is nervioso. I went to the chemist today to fill my anti-anxiety meds prescription. Amazing all these people with RF caps lining up doing the same thing.
    Seriously, I will believe that Thiem will be victorious tomorrow and then I can relax and enjoy the shot making.

      1. Just joking, Jonathan. But, Roger sure puts us through the wringer. Try as I might, I can’t stay calm during a match like that. I see Djoker has a day off. No one is talking about him, not even ATP site. It must piss him off, all the focus on Fed returning to clay and Ferrer’s retirement.

  13. It makes me smile that Monfils said after the match : “I need to progressively find my feet. Madrid is only my second tournament on clay”… Hey, Gael : for RF, Madrid is his 1st tournament on clay for 3 years… 3 years !

  14. At 4 – 1 down in the third set I couldn’t watch anymore. Being late at night in Bali I tried to sleep through my depression and angst, sure Roger had lost. I couldn’t bear to even look at scores, especially after having won the first 6 -0 I could just imagine all the tennis twitter comments!
    This morning opened my FB and accidentally saw Federer is into the quarters! And 1200 wins, that is truly incredible. I remember the 1,000 wins ceremony like it was yesterday.

    1. Haha Tennis Twitter is full of absolute moron’s tbh 😆 I rarely read my timeline outside Fed matches but when I do it’s just complete garbage:

      LOL I’m so tired.
      OMG need to watch Game of Thrones lol but so tired lol

  15. I was always waiting for Monfis to burst into life, good that
    he did in the second set, nailbiting match in the end. I
    think it was windy maybe more than we allow for when
    watching on TV. We applaud Roger’s shotmaking, footwork
    and all things that make him the tennis player he is but
    I forgot what a scrapper he is he just never gave up! The
    next against Dom T logically it should be the player who is
    on the hot streak….I wonder if Fed will be thinking if only I
    played the last few points at IW the same as Madrid! Good
    to see Dom shaking things up a bit and adding different
    things to his game. I do wish everyone would leave Felix
    to hone his skills and not talk about him winning slams. against
    Nadal he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Rant over
    good post Jonathan x

    1. Yeah, it was definitely windy in there. And the shady part of the court made it even trickier. I quite like the Magic Box but perhaps not the best design for tennis.

      1. I really hate that shadow. Never mind the players – it makes watching the match really uncomfortable.

    2. I agree about Felix. The kid is only 18 yr old. I wish they would have less press with all the new guys.

  16. Some very interesting matches coming up today.
    As it is Stan playing him I may even force myself to watch Nadal,with the sound turned down so I can’t hear the grunts.
    As for Feds match.
    If he loses he will have had two competitive clay matches,picked up points and gained insight into his clay game.
    Also Thiem is one of the most likeable players on Tour.So glass half full.
    Fed goes into the match as the underdog but we shall see.
    All great runs come to an end sooner or later.Perhaps Thiem is due for a loss.
    On the other hand I want him to keep the momentum going into RG.So rather conflicted!

  17. Shades of Indian Wells. Roger running out of gas as Thiem starts to find his game. Up a break after a dominant first set, and then surrenders it, and then loses a tight tiebreak. Very concerning.

  18. Yep, there he goes. I understand, first outing on clay in years, he’s 38, blah blah blah. Fed will keep taking bad losses on all surfaces at this point once the match gets to the business end. Flukes like yesterday’s Monfils match will of course happen, but more often than not, he will get tired or disinterested and the match will be over. In a short three-setter, he needed to keep on the gas all the way, and immediately surrendering the break back wasn’t the method. He had chances to win the TB, but as is almost inevitable with Fed in TBs against good opponents, he got tight and surrendered it. Psychological edge passed to Thiem who will easily win. Sad.

  19. Pitiful. Just pitiful. Breaks serve, and then immediately surrenders it, with a complete whimper. Another good effort with nothing to show for it. Roger sucked it up down the stretch. Sorry, this was another stupid loss to a beatable opponent.

      1. Yeah, it’s just nonsense. Great quality match. I’m hard-pressed to say what the Fed could have done differently.

        Have you ever met anyone of substance who is this critical? I haven’t 🙂

      2. I hate it when Fed leaves opportunity on the table. Didn’t he have MPs in the TB? Wasn’t he up a break in the third, only to lose it? Didn’t he break back and surrender it immediately?

        He could’ve consolidated any of these things, is what he could’ve done differently. When he gets dominated by an opponent in superior form, great. When he comes out flat and beats himself, I have no issues. When he grabs defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s frustrating.

      3. Hindsight is 2020. Oh he got broken serving and volleying behind a 2nd serve. He should not have served and volleyed behind that second serve!

        Great insight. Please become a tennis coach.

      4. It’s hindsight to say that he could’ve consolidated the break, or played with a bit more intensity after recovering the break? I’m not questioning his shot selection, but his approach and fortitude down the stretch. Thiem wasn’t playing a level above Fed. It’s a disappointing finish given how Fed started.

        And, Fed volleys behind second serves so often, I certainly wouldn’t question that, win or lose. Again, it’s not about shot choice. He lost this match for other reasons, which don’t include a superior opponent.

  20. And of course, when Roger gets broken, he’s so mad at the break, he almost never digs in on the opponent’s next serve game. What a lame effort the last few games.

  21. That was an incredible match.
    Fed was untouchable in the first set.
    Thiem found his serve in the second.
    That tie break! I felt that damned net cord right at the end somehow disturbed Feds concentration/rhythm.
    The third saw Thiem increasing in confidence and power.
    Fed fought to the end and can be very happy with what he has done in Madrid.
    Considering that Thiem is one of the favourites for RG he had to save 2 match points from a 37 year old who hasn’t
    played on clay for years!

    1. Yes, Fed’s done good here. Of course, I wish he’d have won the match, but 2 3-setters in a row is not the best way to face Novak all fresh from Cilic’s not playing. Thiem is on fire on clay right now, and Roger competed very well against him.

  22. 🙁

    But! Fed played a good match considering it’s a clay surface and he hasn’t played on it since quite some time. On the other side, I think he could have won it. I think if Fed can make a few adjustments he may do decently in RG.

    1. Which adjustments? Getting some years younger?

      Federer delivered more than somebody could expect.

      Of course, I understand, being Federer’s fan means, you are always disappointed when he loses.

      But he was not expected to win. And he was not expected to deliver such a big challenge to Thiem.

      Don’t worry, be happy 🙂

  23. Roger seems to be in love with clay now – and for good reasons after what he showed today 🙂 I see him in Rome draw, which was out today, Don’t you?

    Great match todaym I didn’tz expect Federer to push Thiem so hard. Respect 🙂

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