Top seed Federer, the 2005 and 2012 champion, saved two set points in a tense first set tie-break to beat the experienced German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(8), 7-5 in one hour and 42 minutes. Federer is now a perfect 13-0 against 2016 semi-finalist Kohlschreiber in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, which began in June 2005 at the Gerry Weber Open.
The Swiss superstar must now beat a Dutchman, Robin Haase or wild card Tallon Griekspoor, on Friday at the Rotterdam Ahoy to return to the summit of men’s professional tennis for the first time in more than five years and become the oldest player to rank No. 1.
On the only break point of the first set, a set point for Federer, with Kohlschreiber serving at 5-6, 30/40, the Swiss missed a passing shot. Kohlschreiber grew in confidence taking a 5/2 lead in the tie-break, and held two set point opportunities at 6/4 - including one on his serve. However, Federer regrouped with set point chances at 7/6, 8/7 and 9/8, finally converting his fourth chance with a crosscourt forehand winner.
Kohlschreiber fought off three break points at 1-1, but at 5-5 the German hit the first double fault of the match to hand Federer another break point. Kohlschreiber responded in aggressive fashion, punching away a volley to get back to deuce. But the pressure began to tell. A second double fault gave Federer the crucial break.
Federer captured his 20th Grand Slam championship crown at last month’s Australian Open (d. Cilic) for the 96th tour-level trophy of his career.
Dutch No. 1 Haase plays his compatriot Griekspoor, who beat Stan Wawrinka in the first round for his first ATP World Tour match win, later today.
Well it wasn't easy, he had some real resistance this time.
And he seemed very irritated compared to how relaxed he was in his first round.
Maybe he's starting to think about #1 a little more as he's getting closer (not that he'll ever admit it).