Dominic Thiem saved two match points and ended the first chapter of Roger Federer’s return to clay court tennis with a come-from-behind 3-6, 7-6 (13/11), 6-4 win and reach the Madrid Open semifinals on Friday.
The 37-year-old Swiss had returned this week to the surface for the first time in three years -- his last clay court match was a loss to Thiem in Rome in 2016.
While Federer was heading out, there were no such problems for top seed Novak Djokovic who made the last-four when Marin Cilic withdrew and Rafael Nadal, the second seed, who brushed aside Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2.
Thiem, the 2018 Roland Garros runner-up and winner of the Barcelona title last month, prevailed in two hours 10 minutes against Federer having saved two match points in a 15-minute second set tie-break.
He will on Saturday face world number one Djokovic, who advanced on a walkover when Cilic pulled out with a stomach virus.
Five-time champion Nadal needed just over an hour to reach his 11th Madrid semifinal and will face Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, a winner over defending champion Alexander Zverev by 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
“It was a good match for me, Stan is not an easy opponent regardless of the scoreline,” said Nadal after his 14th quarter-final in the last 15 years in the Spanish capital.
“I had to play good tennis and reach my best level.”
Federer said he was happy to have made his clay court comeback.
“I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “I feel good on the clay right now.”