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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Pablo Andujar surged through the final four games spoiling Roger Federer's clay-court comeback 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Geneva Open quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/Getty

Swiss fans gave Roger Federer a rousing reception as he walked on court for his Geneva homecoming.

Pablo Andujar wasn't nearly as hospitable at closing time.

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The 35-year-old Andujar surged through the final four games spoiling Federer's clay-court comeback 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach his second quarterfinal of the season at the Geneva Open.

It is Andujar's first Top 10 win since he defeated David Ferrer in the 2015 Barcelona semifinals.

The Spanish grinder snapped Federer's 32-match Swiss winning streak handing the former Basel ball boy his first defeat on home soil since Juan Martin del Potro beat him in the Basel final on October 27th, 2013.

Playing his first clay-court match since bowing to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 Roland Garros semifinals 710 days ago, Federer showed some early signs of rust as evident as the red clay streaking his socks.

The former world No. 1 served just 40 percent in the opening set, misfired on his favored forehand at times and didn't make much impression on Andujar's moderate second serve. The lack of recent match play hurt Federer most with the finish line in sight. Two holds away from the quarterfinals, Federer's shots went astray.

Still, there were encouraging signs. Federer's serve and forehand grew sharper as the match progressed, he fired through six love service holds in the match, serve-and-volleyed sharply at times and put himself in position to win holding a 4-2 final-set lead before Andujar rallied for the four-game run.  

Federer's first match since he fell to eventual-champion Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Doha quarterfinals on March 11th showed familiar signs of his electric offensive skills.

The top seed showed fast feet and stability dancing around his backhand to fire a forehand winner down the line from the doubles alley holding to level after six games.

Andujar hit his first ace to seal a 4-3 lead. The 35-year-old Spaniard continued playing patient corner-to-corner baseline tennis testing the 39-year-old Federer's legs after a lengthy layoff.

Serving at 4-5, Federer put a backhand into net to face set point then dragged a forehand error as Andujar took the opening set in 34 minutes.

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Inactivity-induced rust was evident as Federer served just 40 percent in the first set, won just five points on Andujar's serve in the set and ended some points picking up a stray ball and hitting it across the net trying to find his groove.

Finding his comfort zone as the match progressed, Federer showed his all-court comfort level dragging the baseliner into awkward positions for uncomfortable replies.

Delivering some unsettling versatility, Federer played periods of disruptive tennis today.

"Most of the players like conventional rallies," Federer said during his last clay appearance at the 2019 Roland Garros. "Now players manage to hit very hard their first ball, their forehand, and their backhand. That's the conventional. So if you want to have a pleasant match, well, you do that and you still win.

"So the question is do I do this and make it easy for them, or do I play differently and make them more uneasy, make it more difficult for them? So very often it's like that for me. It's very pleasant for me to do a drop shot or a passing shot. I'm not trying to avoid the fight."

The 20-time Grand Slam champion mixed it up to start the second set executing the serve and volley in his opening service game.

Stepping into a forehand, Federer curled a crosscourt angle for his first break point of the net. When the Swiss' return skimmed the top of the tape, Andujar's reply clipped the tape and landed wide as Federer broke for 2-1 at the 47-minute mark. Federer flashed a forehand winner down the line backing up the break with his third love hold for 3-1.

Sticking a slice backhand volley off a serve-and-volley, Federer extended the lead to 4-2. The 20-time Grand Slam champion cracked a diagonal forehand to end the second set and force a decider.

Reading the Spaniard's second serve. Federer scalded a forehand return winner for double break point in the third game. Andujar saved both but Federer slid a no-pace chip return, coaxing an error for a third break point. Luring the Spaniard forward with a drop shot, Federer dashed right and darted a short-angle forehand pass off the sideline snatching the break for 2-1.

A confident Federer flowed through his fifth love hold to confirm the beak.

Though Federer was two holds from victory, Andujar wasn't done yet.

The 35-year-old Spaniard roped a diagonal forehand winner breaking back to even after eight games. Andujar won three straight games turning a 2-4 deficit into a 5-4 lead and shifting the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Swiss to stay in it.

Tennis Express

The depth of Andujar's backhand return pushed Federer back drawing an error for 15-30. Dragged near the doubles alley by a kick serve, Andujar bulleted another backhand return that handcuffed the former No. 1 for two match points.

Striking big and bold with a backhand down the line, Federer saved the first then stung a crosscourt forehand winner to erase the second match point.

"No way," Federer muttered after framing a forehand to face a third match point.

Another deep return down the middle coaxed an error as Andujar closed his fifth career Top 10 win in one hour, 52 minutes.

While Andujar moves on to a quarterfinal, Federer looks ahead to his Roland Garros return at the end of the month.


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