No weather problems here and, give-or-take a couple of early seed exits—Feliciano Lopez and Alexandr Dolgopolov—and a couple of injury exits—Mikhail Youzhny and Marcos Baghdatis—progress has been smooth.
Even the gap in the schedule left by Youzhny’s withdrawal was neatly replaced with a sparkling little exhibition tie-break show with local player, Igor Sijsling. The people had bought their tickets expecting to see the top seed’s first return to Rotterdam in seven years and he would not disappoint them.
It may have lasted only 20 minutes, and Federer may not have bothered to take off the glittering Rolex, but the crowds still cheered some showcase shot-making as though the title depended on it.
Federer’s route to the Friday quarters may have been the quickest—and he now meets 30-year-old Jarkko Nieminen who has played two long three-setters—but second seed Tomas Berdych was also speeded on his way by Baghdatis’s retirement after just three games.
The Czech comes into his seventh Rotterdam with a career-best 11-1 start to his season, losing only to Rafael Nadal in four sets in the Australian Open quarter-finals, but winning in Montpellier last week. He took that run to 12 wins after beating world No45 Andreas Seppi, playing his fifth Rotterdam, in straights. Seppi will turn 28 next week still with just one title to his name.
No3 seed, Juan Martin del Potro, hindered briefly by a nosebleed in his straight-sets progress to the quarters, is the youngest man left in the draw. It’s his first time here, and a dramatic change in schedule after a very strong run of three tournaments in the North American swing this time last year. So there will be no rise in his No10 ranking just yet, no matter whether he wins here or not.
The Argentine booked his place in the semi-finals with an impressive 6-0 6-1 victory over No7 seed Viktor Troicki. The Serb, who reached a career-high of 12 in the middle of last year, has so far made little impact this year.
The match of the day is shaping up to the last of the day between Richard Gasquet and Nikolay Davydenko. They are both former top-10 players—Gasquet a No7 in 2008 and Davydkenko peaking at No3 in 2007.
The slight Russian is one of the three 30-year-olds still in the draw. He is in Rotterdam for the ninth time and a former semi-finalist—most recently in 2010.
Yet he has won only two titles since the biggest win of his career at the World Tour Finals in November 2009 and continues to search for his old form in 2012.
Davydenko has won just two matches out of five to drop outside the top 50 for the first time since 2004. He has won two more in the Netherlands but, as luck would have it, he now faces the man who beat him a fortnight ago in Montpellier. His match against Gasquet there was their first indoor meeting, and a straightforward 63 64 scoreline.
If both play their own special brand of tennis—one Gallic flair, single-handed backhand, touch and creativity, the Russian’s a crisp, smart, angled game of compact shot-making—it could be a cracker.
The reward for the winner in fewer than 24 hours, however, will be Federer. And that is a semi-final line-up to relish even more.
Check out more action photos from Federer, Baghdatis, Del Potro, Gasquet & more.
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BIOGRAPHY: Cesc Fabregas