World #8 and 10-time Halle champion Roger Federer took the court in his match against Ilaya Ivashka and won 7-6(4) 7-5 in an hour and thirty-four minutes. Federer looked a little nervous and tight in first set, with some mishits and unforced errors. But started to gain his footing in the set second set, displaying some of his typical tennis. Early on, it was clear that Federer struggled to transition from clay to grass. Clay is known for being a slower surface with longer rallies, whereas grass is known for being fast and having short points.
“I feel it is very much a mindset playing on this surface. Here in Halle, with the courts protected by the roof, it is slippery and plays fast, so it is always a dangerous tournament to play,” Federer said after the match. “I was slipping on the second point so it is different, you can’t move as aggressively as maybe you’d like. It will be interesting to see how the top guys play. I am always excited to see how they handle these early two rounds in Halle.”
Possibility and Draw
Based on how Roger Federer looks thus far, winning in Halle appears to be a reasonable goal, and one that he can achieve if he plays his best tennis. A lot also depends on the progression of the draw ahead. There are a lot of tough opponents lined up, though. Next is Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who also dispatched Herbert Hurkacz in straight sets.
If Federer progresses, he could face Alexander Zverev in the semifinals and Andrey Rublev in the final. One benefit and advantage to Federer is his extra practice time on grass after he withdrew from the French Open. The decision gave Federer the upper hand in preparation on grass. Also, Federer’s natural style includes a lot of serve and volley, as well as a variety of shots such as slices and drop shots, which work particularly well on grass because the ball bounces much lower.
Players are known to play Halle to prepare for Wimbledon and get in rhythm for the upcoming Major. Transitioning from clay to grass is difficult, which is why there have been so many upsets and early exits in the tournament in recent years. For example, top seed Daniil Medvedev was defeated in straight sets by Jan-Lenard-Struff. Keeping that factor in mind there is a possibility that the top seeds–potential threats to the 39-year-old–might not make the cut for the final rounds.
So far Federer’s game in terms of strokes seemed to look fine. Even though there were some slight errors in point execution and footwork, everything else seemed perfect. He was constantly using his serve to end points, setting him up for the big forehand, or simply to end the point with a volley.
“I feel my serve is there, I just have to get my footwork right, the right intentions on the court. Knowing when to do what and that aggressive baseline game, making it work automatically,” Federer said.
Many players have tried to replicate clay court style on grass. But the 20-time Grand Slam champion has proven time and time again that the most effective and efficient strategies are simple and classic. If he can keep up with his game, work on converting breaking points earlier, there is a real possibility that Roger Federer may win his first title of year and 11th Halle title this week.
Main Photo from Getty.