Halle 2017 Final Preview Roger Federer Vs Sascha Zverev
Roger Federer will contest the 2017 Halle final, his eleventh in all, versus Alexander Zverev who will be competing in his second. The Tennis Review previews a match which promises to give both players and their fans plenty to think about going into Wimbledon.
Since winning the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami, Federer’s 2017 has been all about the Grass season, the Swiss skipping Clay, and after an upset loss to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, that grass court focused schedule is looking back on track for the Swiss who defeated Karen Khachanov to reach his 11th Halle final.
While Federer’s 2017 has been about reasserting himself at the top of the game, Sascha Zverev’ 2017 has been about breaking through in the game’s elite, a feat he achieved impressively winning the Rome title and reaching the top ten, but a shock Roland Garros opening round loss, where he was fancied to challenge Andy Murray in the last eight, derailed him and so a semi-final three set win over Richard Gasquet, a player blessed with grass court skills aplenty, to earn his second appearance in the Halle final should be just the result to put that loss behind him and give him the confidence he needs going into Wimbledon.
Halle is the final warm up for both Federer and Zverev in the oh-too-short grass lead-in to SW19 and neither could have asked for more of a challenge than to face each other in this event, and fans could not have asked for a better final contest, either. Win or lose, both men will go into Wimbledon as match fit as it gets for the favorites going into SW19, having contested a final and all the pressure that comes with that, and having played one of the favorites in the Wimbledon draw, one they will likely need to beat to win the trophy. Fans win either way, too, with the Halle crowd guaranteed Federer or a German as champion and neutrals served up a classic veteran versus Next Gen final between arguably the Greatest Vet and Next Genner playing right now.
The history between the two players suggests there is plenty of scope for a dramatic championship match. So far, on the ATP tour, the head to head is level at 1-1, with Zverev winning their last match, in the Halle ’16 semis in three sets. Zverev, though, unofficially leads the head to head 2-1 after beating Federer in the Hopman Cup earlier this season in three tiebreakers in arguably one of the matches of the ITF season.
Zverevs wins may have come against a struggling or rusty Federer, but the Swiss has, like all former No.1s and slam champs, won plenty of matches when sub-par. Federer has not come up against many young players with the potential of Zverev, however, The 20 year old is just the kind of player to give Federer fits- he has a big enough serve to hold his own versus the Swiss and he also has the baseline game, particularly on the double handed backhand side, to keep Federer at the back of the court and stop him executing his attacking game, embroiling him in baseline rallies and armed with the quality of shot to outplay him in enough of those to matter, most importantly of all, on the big points.
Those Zverev strengths make the fourth seed as good a final opponent as the low on match play top seed could have asked for. While the eight time Halle champion has beaten good opposition to reach his eleventh final in Yuichi Sugita, Mischa Zverev, Florian Mayer and Karen Khachanov, his game matches up well to all of them, but Zverev’s consistent baseline aggression, just the kind of game to undo Federer on any surface in recent years, will ask the right questions- can Federer’s second serve hold up to the pressure if the match gets tight? Is his attacking game sharp enough to blunt Zverev’s depth of shot? and does the top seed have the confidence to go for his shots on second serve returns, and the feel for the ball to hit winners when he does so, and get this match won in a clinical straight setter, the kind he has delivered on grass for a decade and a half now, and which he will need to do if he is going to win seven best of fives in a row at Wimbledon?
Federer was broken twice by Khachanov and will want to put together a better first serve percentage than 66 (won 71%) if he wants to avoid a tiring tussle on the Halle grass especially against Zverev who is grooved for the fight after going three sets versus Roberto Bautista Agut and Richard Gasquet, coming from a set down in each match. That kind of fight, though, could be just the kind of match Federer needs going into Wimbledon. Federer could do with having his mental toughness tested more than anything else and a tricky, young, hungry, and confident opponent like Zverev playing before a home crowd and with the added motivation of making up for his loss in the previous year’s final is just the right opponent to give him that test.
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