Final tests loom for Federer and Kvitova

Roger Federer of Switzerland returning the ball to Russia's Karen Khachanov at the Halle Open semi-final yesterday. The Swiss won 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) and will face Alexander Zverev of Germany in today's final.
Roger Federer of Switzerland returning the ball to Russia's Karen Khachanov at the Halle Open semi-final yesterday. The Swiss won 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) and will face Alexander Zverev of Germany in today's final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Swiss will contest his 11th Halle Open final, Czech hopes to win title on grass again after 3 years

HALLE (Germany) • Top seed Roger Federer will challenge for a ninth Halle Open title after reaching the Wimbledon warm-up event final with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory over rising Russian talent Karen Khachanov yesterday.

Tennis' 18-time Grand Slam champion, who captured the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami titles this year, skipped the entire clay-court season to improve his chances of winning a record eighth title at the All England Club.

Despite a shock exit from Stuttgart on his comeback last fortnight, Federer has improved in Halle and has not yet lost a set.

He will now play local favourite Alexander Zverev, who beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the other semi-final.

Federer and Khachanov traded breaks in the first two games but the Swiss made amends by grabbing a second one to restore his advantage, clinching the first set on his second set point.

The 35-year-old lured Khachanov to the net on several occasions, including at 4-4 in the second set and the Russian dumped a forehand volley into the net to give Federer two break points.

But, instead of serving out the set, the top seed was broken again and Khachanov even held two set points at 6-5 before the world No. 5 recovered and forced a tie-break.

  • 140  Number of finals Roger Federer has entered, including today's Halle Open.

He converted his first match point to reach an 11th Halle final.

"It was all a little uncertain because I don't know him that well," said Federer.

"It's warm, it's hot, I'm a little bit tired. It was a difficult match."

Earlier in the day, Petra Kvitova took a big step to convincing herself that she can make a full recovery when she reached the final of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, England, by outplaying her exhausted friend and Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova.

The two-time former Wimbledon champion showed few signs of the knife injury to her left playing hand in a thoroughly one-sided victory.

Safarova, who had had two huge matches in the previous three days, pulled out with a thigh strain with the score at 6-1, 1-0.

It is only Kvitova's second tournament since a seven-month absence in her career after she was attacked by a knife-wielding intruder in her apartment in the Czech town of Prostejov.

It was also only her sixth match, yet she has reached her first grass-court final since her 2014 Wimbledon triumph.

She will play the unseeded Ashleigh Barty in the final today, after the 21-year-old Australian upset sixth seed Garbine Muguruza, the former French Open champion, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the other semi-final yesterday.

So well has Kvitova been playing that it has become even more significant that this tournament is a Wimbledon warm-up event and she is already beginning to suggest she can again do well at the grass-court Grand Slam starting next week.

"It's tough to play against a friend like Lucie," Kvitova said. "It's hard to think about yourself and not your opponent. I am sorry for her and hope she soon gets a bit better.

"I'm pleased with how I am playing. I love playing finals, I like big matches, and I've missed it over the (preceding) months. So this is quite a dream."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ATP HALLE OPEN

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140 Number of finals Roger Federer has entered, including today's Halle Open.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Final tests loom for Federer and Kvitova'. Print Edition | Subscribe