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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, February 27, 2019

 
Roger Federer

Seven-time Dubai champion Roger Federer topped Fernando Verdasco for the seventh time in as many meetings, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, to reach the quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Roger Federer launched his return to Dubai conquering fear factor in the desert.

Federer revealed he no longer fears left-handers.

More: Nishikori, Bautista Agut Bow in Dubai

Lefty Fernando Verdasco put a bit of a scare in the Swiss today before Federer capped another fright night with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 triumph for his 50th career win in Dubai.




On a day in which both top-seeded Kei Nishikori and defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut were bounced from the Dubai draw, Federer was tested and triumphant, raising his Dubai record to 50-6.

The second seed served 71 percent, swatted 10 aces and nearly tripled Verdasco's winner output, cracking 36 winners compared to 13 for his opponent.

Federer advanced to his 11th career quarterfinal in Dubai where he will face Marton Fucsovics, a 6-4, 6-2, victor over Jan-Lennard Struff. 

The seven-time champion defeated Verdasco for the seventh time in as many meetings despite dropping a set to the 35-year-old Spaniard for the first time in nearly a decade.

Facing the 37-year-old Swiss has been a painful proposition for Verdasco, who took the court winless in six prior encounters with Federer.

The second-seeded Swiss had won 13 of their 14 prior sets taking the ball on the rise and ripping his forehand crosscourt to the left-hander's sometime vulnerable two-handed backhand wing.




Continuing his quest for a 100th career championship, Federer revisited that familiar winning pattern punishing the backhand to break in the fourth game. Federer breezed through confirmation for a 4-1 lead just 13 minutes into the match.

Exploiting Verdasco's tendency to sometimes block back his backhand return, Federer unleashed the serve-and-volley a couple of times serving out the 28-minute opener. Federer won 13 of 19 net trips.

After dominating the first set on serve, Federer briefly lost the plot in his opening service game of the second. Testing the Spaniard's favored forehand on a serve-and-volley, Federer paid the price when Verdasco zapped a diagonal forehand pass for break point.

A churning topspin forehand returned divebombed at Federer's feet eliciting an errant backhand reply. Verdasco had his first break and a 2-0 second-set lead.

A fired-up Verdasco unloaded a 136 mph ace consolidating for 3-0.

Serving for his first set over Federer since the 2009 ATP Finals, a calm Verdasco stamped a love hold taking a set from the Swiss for just the second time to level the match after 61 minutes.

Sliding his seventh ace down the middle, Federer wrapped a firm hold to launch the final set.

The 32nd-ranked Spaniard earned the first break point of the final set. Federer flashed a kick ace wide to deny it then somehow won a rapid-fire net exchange navigating a trying hold for 2-1.




Regaining serving rhythm, Federer rolled through 10 straight service points stamping his second straight love hold for 4-3.

A Federer backhand flagged into the net then fell over for break point. Blocking back a backhand return, Federer fired away at the left-hander's backhand drawing a mid-court reply and torching a forehand down the line breaking for 5-3.

The Federer faithful erupted in chants of "Roger! Roger!" in celebration.

The seven-time champion streaked through the final game finishing off a slight fright night in 94 minutes.

 

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