Roger Federer put himself back on course for the semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Finals with victory over Richard Gasquet at London’s O2 Arena.
Only once in 11 previous appearances has six-time champion Federer failed to reach the Last Four but that seemed a real possibility when he lost to Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.
He was not on top form here but it was more than good enough to defeat Gasquet 6-4, 6-3. There is still much work to do for Federer, though, and he will almost certainly need to beat Juan Martin del Potro in his final group match to ensure qualification.
Gasquet booked his place in the year-end championships for the first time since 2007 but his hopes of reaching the semi-finals for the first time are now over. Tuesday was the first time Federer had lost his opening match since the tournament moved to the O2, but the Swiss had never been beaten in his second match.
He had also never lost successive round-robin matches, and a 10-2 head-to-head record against Gasquet suggested that record was unlikely to end.
There were plenty of nerves on show, though, as Federer lost the first six points, although he recovered to hold serve.
It must have made a nice change for the Swiss to be playing against a rival in his own image rather than a baseline scrambler, and there was plenty of artistry on show — but plenty of mistakes, too. Federer took control of the match with a break for 2-1 only to hand it back with a horrible game as Gasquet levelled at 4-4.
The sixth seed was let off the hook, though, Gasquet dropping serve straight away and Federer did not need a second invitation to wrap up the set. It looked like Federer would run away with it when he began the second set by breaking serve again and had a point to make it 3-0.
But soon it was Federer under pressure, Gasquet forcing break points in three successive service games but failing to take them. The frustration on the Frenchman’s face as a delicate lob from Federer arced over him on the final chance told its own story.
It took Federer six chances to get over the line but he clinched victory after an hour and 21 minutes when Gasquet dumped a forehand into the net. It was only Federer’s third victory over a fellow top-10 player this season.