Roger Federer was put to the test at his home Swiss Indoors on Wednesday, but conjured up a 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 7-5 defeat of Thomaz Bellucci to advance to the quarter-finals.
The champion at five of the last six editions needed all of his guile at the end to advance in just over three hours, with eight aces and two breaks of serve.
Federer has now won 31 of his last 32 matches in Basel, with his only loss coming against Novak Djokovic in the 2009 final.
The hometown star, who got his first exposure to the game as a ballboy at the venue, profited from a day off on Tuesday while Bellucci, a weekend Moscow finalist, had to go three sets the previous evening.
“It was a tough match, but a very enjoyable one,” said 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, seeking his 77th title. “I maybe had some luck at the end. I also had a rest while he was playing yesterday after a long trip, but Thomaz played really well. I had to work for this one.”
Federer had a successful experiment with serve-and-volley tactics, mainly in the opening set, which he won in 30 minutes.
However, Bellucci took the second into a tiebreaker, with Federer fighting to save four set points before finally losing on the fifth. It took a deciding set for the world No. 1 to advance to his 66th season victory.
Second seed Juan Martin del Potro overcame a first-set back problem to make a winning 6-4, 6-1 start over Alejandro Falla.
The South American battle finished in just under 90 minutes, with Del Potro running away with the second set.
Del Potro is hunting for one of two remaining spots in the eight-man year-end championships in London from Nov. 5, standing provisional seventh, ahead of French back-injury victim Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who quit this week — as did Tsonga — with a physical problem at the Valencia event.
“Qualifying for London is very important for me,” Del Potro said. “I’m very excited to be so close, it’s a big goal, but I’ve not qualified yet. I need to win more matches. I hope to get there either this week or next.”
Frenchman Benoit Paire upset last week’s Moscow titleholder Andreas Seppi, the No. 5 seed, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Australian Marinko Matosevic put out Florian Mayer, the German seventh seed, 6-2, 6-3. Paul-Henri Mathieu of France beat Swiss-Finn Henri Laaksonen 6-2, 7-5.