After winning the title in 2009 and reaching the final a year later, Roger Federer returned to Caja Magica in Madrid for another strong run at a fast clay-court Masters 1000 event. His 2011 could have been a short one, though, having to save a match point against Feliciano Lopez in the very first match before prevailing 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in just under three hours.
In the third round, the Swiss toppled Xavier Malisse in 71 minutes to set the quarter-final clash against Robin Soderling who defeated him at Roland Garros a year ago. Madrid's duel was their 17th and last, with Federer scoring a 7-6, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 43 minutes for the 16th victory over the Swede, moving into the last four to join Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Robin served at 53% and gave his best to draw the most from that and stay in touch with a better-ranked opponent, fending off five out of six break chances and taking ten points fewer than Roger. The Swiss did everything right in his games, saving both break opportunities offered to the Swede and playing better when it mattered the most to seal the deal in straight sets and face Rafael Nadal for the third consecutive year in Caja Magica.
Roger held in the opening game with a perfect drop shot, followed by a hold at love from Soderling who leveled the score at 1-1 to add his name on the scoreboard. Robin stayed in touch in the first 40 minutes, serving to stay in the set at 4-5 when Federer created two set points, denied by winners from the Swede who survived that test to level the score at 5-5.
Soderling saved another set point with a perfect volley winner in the 12th game, reaching a tie break where he couldn't find his strokes, allowing Federer to close it with a service winner on the fourth set point at 6-2 after an hour.
In the third game of the second set, Robin defended two break chances to keep his serve intact, earning a massive opportunity to move in front at 3-2 after opening a 40-15 advantage on the return. Staying calm, Federer repelled both break points and closed the game with a crafty forehand winner to lock the result at 3-3.
A lucky net cord winner provided a break chance for Roger in the ninth game, converting it with a marvelous volley winner to secure the first break of the match and serve for the triumph. Three winners in that tenth game were enough for Federer to seal the deal, advancing into the semi-final on clay in Madrid for the third straight year and arranging another meeting with Rafael Nadal.