Tennis: Federer in ominous form

Swiss maestro Roger Federer (right) posing with the Halle Open trophy next to Czech actress-model Eva Herzigova and runner-up Alexander Zverev of Germany.
Swiss maestro Roger Federer (right) posing with the Halle Open trophy next to Czech actress-model Eva Herzigova and runner-up Alexander Zverev of Germany.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Swiss will head to Wimbledon as the favourite after sweeping aside Zverev in style at Halle

HALLE WESTFALEN (Germany) • If Roger Federer plays at Wimbledon anything like he did to win his ninth Halle title by blowing Alexander Zverev off the court in 53 minutes yesterday, he will surely be there for the final weekend of the championship at the All England Club in three weeks' time.

The bare numbers hardly tell the tale: 6-1, 6-3 to Federer, 58 points to 33 overall, winning 79 per cent of his service points, 52 per cent when receiving. He was razor sharp at the net, solid at the back, ruthless in the finish.

There was hardly an area of the game Federer did not dominate for extended periods, although the rallies rarely went longer than a few shots. Zverev, who had been so impressive all week, rushed his counters, botched several winners and at no point was really in the contest.

This was a statement match for both of them, brought together for a third time at opposite ends of their careers.

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The 20-year-old German wears his hair fashionably long; the 35-year-old Swiss recently had a serious short back and sides, reaching for the look of youth, perhaps.

Inside a minute, Federer, who skipped the clay-court season to prepare for grass after winning the Australian Open and titles in Indian Wells and Miami, broke Zverev to love.

Zverev, who had lost his first eight matches against top-10 players, then beaten seven of the next 11 - including Federer in the semi-finals here last year - encountered the Swiss on one of his magical days.

He was 0-3 down after 10 minutes. Twenty minutes in, Federer, who was defeated in his first comeback match by Tommy Haas in Stuttgart last week, had three set points. Zverev hit long. Embarrassment loomed.

Federer handed him a break with a sloppy forehand, but quickly repaired the damage.

In the final point of the third game of the second set, Zverev hunted down one of Federer's many drop shots, slid under the net and jarred his left ankle.

The old man in the bandanna gave him a consoling pat on the back, then resumed his systematic beating.

A final, imperious backhand volley put Zverev out of his agony.

In winning, Federer became the first player to beat both Zverev brothers at the same event, having defeated Mischa in the round of 16.

Federer, whose first success at Halle came in 2003, has won 92 career titles from 140 finals.

"I don't know if I'm ever going to win this tournament again," Federer said courtside. "So I'm just going to enjoy it as much as I can."

He had to be kidding. Having watched Rafael Nadal compile La Decima three times on clay this summer, Federer will strain every sinew to post just one on the grass of Halle.

He might even get an eighth title on the grass of Wimbledon, which will put him clear of Pete Sampras' joint-record, and then can start dreaming anew.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Federer in ominous form'. Print Edition | Subscribe