The top seed and nine-time Halle champion Roger Federer stayed on the title course a year ago, advancing to the 17th quarter-final at one of the favorite events with a hard-fought 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in two hours and 16 minutes.
Playing against each other for the first time since Monte Carlo 2016, Federer had to work hard to score the first victory over the Frenchman since 2014, serving revenge for that terrible 2011 Wimbledon loss when he was two sets to love in front before finishing on the losing side.
Just like against Millman in the first round, it wasn't the most excellent performance from the best grass-court player in the Open era, taking one point more than Jo-Wilfried and facing seven break chances. The Frenchman converted only two of those, coming from a set and a break down to stay in contention until the decisive game at 5-5 in the third when Roger broke to take the final step towards victory.
Blasting 15 aces and 46 winners overall, Tsonga also hit 31 unforced errors while the Swiss stayed on a 35-19 ratio, finding the way to cross the finish line first and move into the last eight.
The returners took only one point in the opening four games and Federer was the first to experience troubles behind the initial shot at 2-2, fending off two break points to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard and creating a set point on the return at 5-4 with a volley winner.
Jo-Wilfried saved it with a booming serve and the tie break became inevitable at that point, with the Frenchman opening a 3-0 lead there. Roger fought back, landing a deep return at 5-4 to create the gap and securing the opener with a service winner at 6-5 after challenging 50 minutes.
Carried by this momentum, the crowd favorite blasted another excellent return to open the second set with a break, forging a 3-1 advantage before Tsonga erased the deficit with a break in game six after a tough volley that Roger failed to control.
The Frenchman had the upper hand in those moments, playing well and delivering another break at 5-4 following a volley mistake from Federer to close the set and setting up a decider, mighty relieved he is still in the match after being a set and a break down not that long ago.
In one of the pivotal moments, Roger repelled a break chance in the sixth game of the third set, earning a break at 15 at 5-5 and serving for the victory in game 12. Four winners pushed Federer over the finish line for his 65th win in Halle, setting the quarter-final clash with Roberto Bautista Agut.