STUTTGART • Swiss star Roger Federer's return to tennis after a month away with a back injury gathered pace yesterday as he dispatched German qualifier Florian Mayer 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-1) to book his place in the Mercedes Cup semi-finals.
The world No. 3 fired 15 aces to triumph in 85 minutes and will face rising talent Austrian Dominic Thiem in the last four of the grass-court tournament at the Weissenhof Club. Third seed Thiem defeated Russia's Mikhail Youzhny 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 and improved to 43-11 this season. The 22-year-old world No. 7 is chasing his fourth ATP World Tour title of the season.
Federer was playing in his first event since skipping last month's French Open - the first Grand Slam tournament he had missed since 1999.
"Two matches in a row, it's beautiful right now," said the 34-year-old, who beat American teenager Taylor Fritz 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the previous round on Thursday.
Last night's success was the 17-time Major champion's 1,072 career victory, passing Ivan Lendl into second spot on the all-time list. Only Jimmy Connors (1,256) has won more match wins.
Federer is building for another run at Wimbledon, where he is a seven-time champion.
His great rival Rafael Nadal will not be involved at the All England Club, where he won in 2008 and 2010, after failing to recover from the wrist injury which also forced his early withdrawal from Roland Garros. The 30-year-old Spaniard is desperate to be fit for the Rio Olympics in August.
The world No. 4 was unable to defend his gold medal at the 2012 London Games because of a knee injury. He has been scheduled to be his country's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony in Brazil.
Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka has added 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to his coaching team ahead of the London tournament.
The Swiss world No. 5 won the 2014 Australian Open and added the French Open title last year, but he has struggled on the grass at SW19 with just two quarter-final appearances.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS