For the 10th time in the last 11 years, Roger Federer is through to the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
The second-seeded Swiss turned in yet another strong performance at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in their fourth-round matchup under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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Roger Federer: 71st career match win at US Open (ties Pete Sampras for 4th most in Open Era, both players are 71-9)9/3/2014, 1:28:26 AM
Exhibiting a steady return game and strong first serve, Federer needed a relatively breezy one hour and 56 minutes to earn his third Grand Slam quarters appearance of 2014.
Tuesday's match proved a stark contrast to this time one year ago, when a then-31-year-old Tommy Robredo made the then-32-year-old Federer look elderly in a straight-sets romp.
Now, equipped with a bigger racket and a longer lease on his tennis life, Federer made Bautista Agut—a Spaniard seven years his junior—look like he was running in quicksand by comparison.
The world No. 3 danced around the court with ease, ripping forehands down the line and flashing a trademark touch that overwhelmed Bautista Agut.
Federer was victorious on 78 percent of his first-serve points, including a run in the second set where he went 12-of-13. He had eight aces—Bautista Agut managed to mostly make contact—but controlled the pace with a serve that averaged 10 more miles per hour than his opponent's.
Struggling with accuracy at times, Federer needed all the first-serve points he could get. The first two sets saw him combine to hit less than 60 percent of his first serves in play, and Bautista Agut had a good amount of success against Federer's second serve—which was more than 20 miles per hour slower than his initial offering.
Federer discussed the matchup prior to the match:
He's quick on his feet. He doesn't miss much. He's consistent. He's got a pretty good first serve. He's overall a solid player. I would assume he's fit, too, because he comes from the Spanish tennis school. ... They just know how to train hard. They never get tired. They're always ready to go. They have a good mental approach, point-for-point mentality.
Playing each other for the first time, the first set felt very much like a feeling-out process. They traded initial serve holds to go 1-1 before each player found a way to take advantage of the other's second serve.
Federer struck blood first, taking four straight games (two breaks) to go ahead 5-1. However, Bautista Agut battled his way back into the set, getting a break of his own and holding serve to close the gap to 5-4 before Federer closed it out.
Once the underdog's valiant effort in the first set fell flat, the match started to get away from him.
In many ways, the second set mirrored the first, with Federer breaking Bautista Agut in the third game and taking a commanding 3-1 lead. Federer wouldn't get a second consecutive break this time around. He also wouldn't need it.
Bautista Agut earned himself only one break point and failed to convert as Federer earned a commanding 6-3 second-set win.
The razor-thin margin between missed and converted opportunities played out the entire match, but never more so than in the third set. With Federer again struggling with his first-serve location, Bautista Agut put himself in position to get back in the match with three break points. Federer likewise earned three break chances.
Bautista Agut converted none. Federer converted two, including a match-clinching point that saw Bautista Agut cough up his serve for the final time with a feeble return into the net.
Federer finished the match converting six of his 13 opportunities to break serve, while his opponent went 1-of-7.
It was a contest that could have played out in a wildly different fashion had Bautista Agut been able to convert points when it counted. Instead, Federer goes through relatively untested, earning his third straight-sets win in four matches.
Gael Monfils, who upset seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov earlier Tuesday, awaits in the quarters. Monfils has won two of his last four matches against Federer—both wins coming on hard surfaces—and played him tough in a three-set loss in Cincinnati last month.
The talented yet enigmatic Frenchman is yet to drop a set and will be making his second career quarterfinals appearance.
"It's because I love to play here," Monfils said after the match. "Such a good energy. I feel good. I'm happy, so I deliver a good game."
While Monfils has certainly looked fit in New York, there's little reason to consider Federer anything but the favorite. Every time he's played Monfils in the five-set format, he's come away with convincing victories.
That Monfils has made two Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2014 is impressive, but he's made exactly one appearance in the last four in his entire career.
Federer, meanwhile, seems dead-set on earning an 18th Grand Slam title. He's wearing the same look—a mix of determination, confidence and a little bit of desperation—he carried to the Wimbledon final in July. When Novak Djokovic finished the job in a five-set thriller, the air let out of the entire All England Club as many thought they were seeing Federer's last great shot at a Slam.
Adam Zagoria @AdamZagoria
Not only does Federer have a great draw here but he's playing virtually every match at night.Nishikori-Wawrinka gonna play in 88 degrees tom9/3/2014, 12:56:49 AM
With Rafael Nadal withdrawn due to injury and a draw that's broken favorably every step of the way, this might actually be Federer's last shot.
If the first four rounds are any indication, it's clear Federer is determined to not let this one slip through his fingers.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter @tylerconway22.
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