Friday, June 22, 2018

Roger Federer made to work again but reaches semis in Halle

World No. 1 Roger Federer extended his grass-court winning streak to 19 matches on Friday at the Gerry Weber Open, where he is bidding for a 10th trophy.

Twenty-four hours after saving two match points against Benoit Paire in the second round, Federer needed to recover from 3-5 down in the second set against Matthew Ebden for a 7-6(2), 7-5 victory over 88 minutes.

"I’m happy I played good when I had to [at the] end of the second, end of the first as well," Federer said. "I think that comes with playing a lot of matches now. It was tricky. I think Ebden played a good match and I’m happy I got through somehow."

Federer, the 2003-06, 2008, 2013-15 and 2017 Halle champion, with a 62-6 record at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament, moved up through the gears at 3-5 in the second set to win 16 of the next 20 points to win in straight sets. He will next prepare to face American qualifier Denis Kudla, who beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan earlier on day five.

Federer was made to bide his time in the first set, when Ebden, competing with confidence at a career-high No. 60 in the ATP Rankings, gave little away. Federer had one break point chance at 3-3, with Ebden serving at 30/40, but raised his game in the tie-break by winning the first three points.

Federer came close to taking a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Ebden maintained his composure to save three break points and later clinched Federer’s serve for 2-1 in their first-time meeting. While Federer immediately levelled the score at 2-2, Ebden kept fighting — just as he had done against 2011 titlist Kohlschreiber on Thursday — and broke his Swiss opponent’s serve for a second time at 3-3.

Ebden did little wrong when serving for the second set at 5-3, but Federer drew on his big-match experience when it mattered most - shortening his racquet take back on return to get the ball in court - to clinch four straight games and earn his 24th win in 26 matches this year.

"I think it’s normal once you get broken on grass that you are ready to go a third because that would be a logical consequence of being broken," Federer said. "But at the same time, you try to show a reaction, try to break back and I had to and was able to do that today."

Kudla advanced to only the second ATP World Tour semi-final of his career on Friday when he fought back from a 2-5 deficit in the second set — and saved one set point — to beat Sugita 6-2, 7-5 in 82 minutes. The qualifier, who reached the 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open semi-finals (l. to Isner), saved one set point when serving at 3-5, Ad-Out, in the second set for only his fifth tour-level match win of 2018.

Federer beat Kudla in their only FedEx ATP Head2Head clash at the 2012 BNP Paribas Open in straight sets. Kudla had won just two tour-level matches this year. but this week he has earned three victories for his second ATP World Tour semi-final.

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