Roger Federer admitted that he got lucky after avoiding a major setback in his preparations for Wimbledon in a gruelling 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the ATP event in Halle on Thursday.
Federer, 37, appeared firmly on course for a place in the quarter-finals at a set and a break up before an impressive comeback from Tsonga took the second-round match to a decider.
“I knew when I gave away that lead that it would be tight. Then it was about holding my nerve,” he said.
“The third set was more of a battle. I tried to stay calm.
“It had a bit of everything: happiness, sadness, frustration. I maybe got a bit lucky, but you need that sometimes.
“It was a bit emotional at the end, which was nice.”
Federer said he felt for the defeated Tsonga, who returned to the tour this year after a seven-month absence due to a knee operation in 2018.
“I was pleased for him when he got an ovation at the end.”
The Swiss, who is eyeing a record tenth career title at Halle this year, faces Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the last eight on Friday.
“Roberto wins his points differently than Jo does. Jo does it with the serve, the power, the variety. Roberto does it with repetition,” said Federer.
Easy for Zverev
Bautista Agut promised to take the fight to Federer after he eased to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over France’s Richard Gasquet.
“I feel I am a better player now than in the past. I will have to be aggressive with my return and push him as much as possible,” he said.
The 31-year-old Spaniard has not beaten Federer in eight meetings, and missed out on a chance to play him in last year’s final at Halle after retiring injured in the semi-finals.
“Hopefully I can finish the week better this year. It was bad luck last year because I felt really good on court in every match,” he said.
Home favourite Alexander Zverev also advanced to the quarter-finals with a comfortable 6-3, 7-5 win over American Steve Johnson.
The world number five faces Belgium’s David Goffin in the last eight on Friday.
“I am just happy to be on the court,” said Zverev, who has been struggling with a knee injury this week.
“My knee is very swollen. There are still some moves where it really hurts, but the pain is less than yesterday,” he said.
Elsewhere, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who was crowned champion in Stuttgart last week, came from behind to beat compatriot Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and secure a quarter-final clash with third-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov.