Monday's Stuttgart champion Dominic Thiem and NextGen players Taylor Fritz and Alexander Zverev all have the potential to surprise some people at the ATP World Tour 500 event, Federer said.
“Regarding Thiem, it depends on how tired he is. He really fought his way through last week plus Paris before. That was a huge task last week,” Federer said of the 22-year-old Austrian, who beat Federer in the semi-finals in Stuttgart and reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros. “[Eighteen-year-old] Fritz surely has potential, he loves playing on grass. I played him last week. I think he will have a great career.”
Federer also thinks the 19-year-old Zverev, who faces Viktor Troicki in the first round, could make a run in his home country. “Troicki will not be easy but if he gets through that match and gets into a rhythm he might make it to the semis or finals, that’s absolutely realistic,” he said. “I like Alex’s game. Therefore, I am curious what he will achieve over the coming years.”
Federer also called Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who fell in three sets on Monday to World No. 6 Kei Nishikori, “a huge talent”.
The eight-time Halle champion also talked about himself. He said his back continues to feel better, and he's glad to have another week of grass-court tennis ahead of him.
“It's much better. I served normally last week, served a lot of aces and also quite a few into the net because I haven’t found my rhythm yet. But at the end it was quite good. I was happy,” Federer said of his back. “Every day that goes by is a step forward, and every match is a step forward.”
Federer won two matches at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, beating Fritz in three sets and sweeping German veteran Florian Mayer in two sets before losing to Thiem. Federer, though, held a match point against the Austrian.
“I’m just hoping I can keep up a good level from Stuttgart. It got better as the tournament progressed. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t win against Thiem but after all I felt improvement throughout,” Federer said.
The top-seeded Federer will play German wild card Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round.