Saturday, June 23, 2018

Roger Federer reaches 12th Gerry Weber Open final in Halle

Roger Federer has won a record 18 grass-court titles, an all-time record according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. But the Swiss has never triumphed at two tour-level grass-court events ahead of Wimbledon in one season. After defeating Denis Kudla 7-6(1), 7-5 on Saturday to reach his 12th Gerry Weber Open final, he will have the opportunity to do so.

“I’m very happy,” said Federer. “I’ve never played back-to-back finals on grass like this in events before Wimbledon. So, this is a first for me. I’m very happy having won Stuttgart and, now, making another final here in Halle is great. I would have taken that any day a month ago.”

Federer, bidding to win his 99th tour-level title, won his 20th consecutive match on grass after 87 minutes, firing 12 aces and winning 84 per cent of first-serve points en route to victory. The nine-time champion has not lost on grass since his 2017 MercedesCup defeat to Germany's Tommy Haas. Federer's 20-match grass win streak is the second longest of his career. The 36-year-old won 65 consecutive encounters on the surface from 2003 to 2008.

Federer improves to 12-2 in Halle semi-final clashes after denying Kudla a place in his first ATP World Tour final. Kudla has reached two tour-level semi-finals from qualifying. The American qualifier also made it to the final four at the 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open (l. to Isner).

The Swiss improves to 63-6 at the event and will face Borna Coric in Sunday's final. Coric advanced to the championship match after playing just five games of his semi-final against Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard was forced to retire after an unfortunate slip, with Coric serving at 2-3.

The Croatian enters his first grass-court final at the tour-level in strong form, after securing his first Top 10 victory on the surface earlier this week against home favourite Alexander Zverev. Coric has won one of his previous three ATP World Tour finals, triumphing at the 2017 Grand Prix Hassan IIagainst Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Federer leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Coric 2-0, which includes their three-set BNP Paribas Open semi-final meeting in March. “I’m ready for a tough final against Coric and I just hope I can find my best game,” said Federer.

Federer got off to a quick start, becoming just the second man to break Kudla in five matches this week with great depth off his groundstrokes proving key. Kudla had saved 20 of 21 break points at the tournament, including his two victories in qualifying.

The American quickly responded, however, immediately breaking back after rushing the World No. 1 into a forehand error. Both men eventually found their rhythm on serve from that point, holding comfortably to reach a tie-break.

Federer, as has often been the case in Halle tie-breaks, raised his level. The 36-year-old raced out to a 6/0 lead before clinching a one-set advantage, two points later, with a well-placed serve down the 'T'. Federer has now won 16 of his past 17 tie-breaks in Halle.

“It was a pity I could not maintain the break advantage I created in the first game,” said Federer. “That was my big goal this morning: to come out of the blocks fast and good and protect the lead. I couldn’t do that. And then, honestly, I think we both went on a pretty good roll of not dropping serves anymore. It was just hard to break for a while and I played a good tie-break again, like yesterday. I think that was crucial.”

Kudla manufactured two break-point chances in the fourth game of the second set, but could not convert either. The 25-year-old misfired on his backhand side in an extended rally at 15/40 before Federer seized control with aggressive play to level proceedings.

Kudla created further chances in the seventh game, taking the opening three points against serve. But, once again, Federer held his nerve and rose to the occasion. The nine-time champion took control on his serve and forehand side to escape for 4-4.

Three games later, Federer's forehand made the crucial breakthrough. On his first break point of the set, the Swiss fired a backhand return onto the baseline before taking charge on his forehand, from the backhand corner, to extract a crucial error from Kudla. Five points later, Federer converted his first match point with an unreturned serve out wide.

"I’m going to enjoy it," said Coric. "I didn’t expect this at the beginning of the week. Today I was a little bit lucky. I’m sorry for Roberto. But I can rest a little bit now which is good. I don’t think my chances are really big but I’m going to go out there and I’m going to try to win. That’s for sure."

Did You Know?

Roger Federer has never lost before the quarter-finals in Halle, and has reached 14 consecutive semi-finals at the event.

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