BENGALURU: Roger Federer folded as much to fatigue as to Nikoloz Basilashvili‘s blitzkrieg from the back of the court in the quarterfinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Thursday. The second seed, who had a match point in the deciding set, bowed out of his comeback tournament, falling 6-3, 1-6, 5-7.
“He’s always my idol, he’s an unbelievable player, I’m happy that he has come back,” Basilashvili said. “On court he’s the best player of all time, off court he’s an incredible person. I am so happy today.”
Federer, pushing 40, was off the blocks quickly against a player, ten years his junior, whose everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style of play, sees him go in and out of a point quicker than a race car. The second seed nailed the first break of the match in the fourth game, with an ever-fresh backhand down-the-line winner.
The world No. 42, who had lost four successive matches coming into Doha, where he beat the world no 262 Malek Jaziri to snap the unhappy run, weighed-in in the second set, breaking Federer in the second game with a two-handed pass. The 20-time major winner went up 0-40 in the next game, but his 29-year-old opponent won the next five points to take a 3-0 lead.
Federer, keeping the ball low, using a heavy dose of underspin, couldn’t reel the Tibilisi-based pro in. Basilashvili got down and stayed with Federer, he opened up his arm whenever he could to crush the spin. He broke again before serving out the second set.
If the Swiss’ legs appeared a tad slow for the miles logged in his first match in 14 months when he put out Briton Daniel Evans in a battling three-setter on Wednesday, his hands appeared heavy, his shots falling short or sailing long.
In the decider, Federer had a match point against the run of play in the tenth game, until which point, the Georgian had lost just three points on serve in the set. He paid for the lapse in the 11th game. Basilashvili, brutal from the back of the court, particularly off the backhand, then served out the match.