HALLE WESTFALEN, Germany (AFP) - Teenager Alexander Zverev caused a major shock as he beat eight-time winner and top seed Roger Federer in the Halle grasscourt semi-finals on Saturday.
Error-strewn Federer’s vulnerability on his favourite surface could perhaps be explained by a back injury that made the 34-year-old miss last month’s French Open, but this was not the build-up to Wimbledon that the Swiss ace wanted.
The 19-year-old Zverev triumphed 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-3 to reach only his second ATP Tour final after being beaten by Dominic Thiem on clay in Nice last month.
The tournament will see an all-German final after 192-ranked Florian Mayer crushed world number seven Thiem, 6-3, 6-4, in Saturday’s second semi-final.
As Zverev bids for his maiden career title, Mayer plays his sixth final and first in nearly five years as he targets a second ATP title after Bucharest in September 2011.
“It’s unbelievable to get a win against Roger, especially on grass,” said Zverev.
“I played very good and served well once again. I think that helped me a little bit and I played well in the important moments.
“It’s nice to get a win like that. It’s nice with that kind of match going into Wimbledon and obviously into the final here as well.
“Don’t forget that that is a very big match for me as well. We’ll see what happens tomorrow but I’m happy with my performance today.”
The veteran Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam winner, won the last three Halle Open tournaments but he met his match in the spirited world number 38.
Just over a week before the start of Wimbledon, it was the second semi-final defeat in a row on grass for the world number three after Thiem beat him in Stuttgart last week.
Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2012 and given the form of world number one Novak Djokovic, Federer’s current level would unlikely see that run come to an end.
The 1.98m Zverev is already guaranteed to improve his career-high ranking in Monday’s new list to inside the top 30.
He took the first set on a tie-break having lost just four points on serve and firing 14 winners.
Federer earnt the first break of the match at 5-5 in the second with a sublime drop shot before finishing off the set with two service winners.
But a backhand error from Federer gave Zverev the crucial break in the sixth game of the deciding set.
Federer was unable to battle back from there and he fails to reach the final in Halle for the first time in his last 11 attempts.
Zverev finished with 39 winners and eight aces while saving six of seven break points, gaining revenge for a defeat to Federer on the Rome clay last month.
“It’s always tough to play somebody the first time,” Zverev added.
“You don’t know what to expect, especially against him. He likes to rush people and is doing the best out of that. In important moments he plays faster than anybody else and that was something I never felt before and obviously playing in Rome was a big help for this win I think.”
It was Federer’s first defeat to a teenager in almost 10 years, since current world number two Andy Murray beat him at the Cincinnati Masters in 2006.