Federer looked more relieved than overjoyed when Tiafoe’s forehand found the net on match point to keep his hopes of a 20th grand slam title alive. The 19-year-old Tiafoe broke Federer in the first game of the match and bellowed out a loud “Come on!” when his forehand winner found the line to capture the opening set.
Federer, who has won this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon since taking a six-month break last year, soon found his groove once he broke Tiafoe to take a 3-1 lead in the second set and reeled off nine of the next 10 games.
However, his poor form returned in a 23-minute fourth set when his serve and the accuracy of his trusty one-handed backhand completely deserted him. In the deciding set, Tiafoe saved a match point at 3-5 down before breaking Federer’s serve with a brilliant forehand pass, but Federer came back to break serve and take the match in the next game to win in two hours, 41 minutes.
Despite coming away with the win, the shaky performance raises questions about the health of the 36-year-old Swiss, who sat out the Cincinnati Masters earlier this month with back pain.