MADRID — Roger Federer had to save two match points before reaching the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open with a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (3) win over a gritty Gael Monfils on Thursday.
In only his second match on clay since 2016, Federer rallied from three games down late in the third set and then dominated the deciding tiebreaker to outlast Monfils in a match of more than two hours at the Magic Box center court.
It was the 1,200th career win for Federer, allowing him to join Jimmy Connors as the only players to have reached the milestone in the Open Era.
The fourth-seeded Federer had eased past Richard Gasquet in his first match in Madrid and looked set for another comfortable win after routing Monfils in less than 20 minutes in the opening set. But the Swiss lost five straight games to fall behind the 18th-ranked Frenchman who was seeking his second title of the season.
Federer recovered by breaking Monfils at 2-4 in the third set, and then saved the two match points in a long game when trailing 5-6. The 20-time Grand Slam champion was back in control in the tiebreaker, winning six of the first seven points.
Federer will next face fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem, who defeated Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-5.
Federer skipped the clay swing the last two years to remain fit for the rest of the season. The Madrid Open is his first clay tournament as he prepares to return to the French Open after a three-year absence. He has already won two hard-court titles this season, in Dubai and Miami, and is seeking his third Madrid trophy, and first since 2012.
Earlier, top-ranked Novak Djokovic reached the final eight by beating Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 7-6 (2). It was his 13th consecutive win over Chardy, all in straight sets.
Djokovic will next face Marin Cilic, who came from behind to beat Laslo Djere 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Djokovic is seeking his second title of the season, and third in Madrid. He began the year by winning the Australian Open.