Roger Federer avoided a major setback in his preparations for Wimbledon as he scrapped to a 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round of 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 match to a decider.
The Swiss, who is eyeing a record tenth career title at Halle this year, prevailed in a tense third set and faces Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the last eight on Friday.
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.