Roger Federer Who Can Make Life Hell for the Top Seed in Halle?


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A ninth Halle title seems to be on Roger Federer’s racket this week, but the world No.5 will have to see off some of the best grass courters out there if he is going to win only his second tournament played since his win in Miami. The Tennis Review looks at Federer’s projected and possible opponents and the chances of them upsetting the top seed at one of his very best events.

Round 1 Yen-Hsun Lu

Lu, ranked 73, looks a good draw for Federer on paper but the Taiwanese veteran has some strong previous form on grass, winning the Aegon Surbiton 2016 Trophy and reaching the 2010 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Federer leads Lu 3-0 (excluding a walkover in the 2014 Halle last eight).

Upset Factor: A Lu win over Federer would end up being one of the more notable upsets of 2017.

Federer may have been rusty in Stuttgart, but Haas, a former world no.2 who beat Federer in the 2012 Halle final, was no ordinary opening round opponent, despite his ranking of 302, but was instead a 39 year old with the kind of top level experience to make rankings and head to heads meaningless and make the match about what happens on the day.

Lu, on the other hand, may be a 33 year old veteran but in his 16  year pro career, he has a career high ranking of 33, and in his 14 events this season (7 ATP, 2 slams, 5 Challengers) has beaten just two top 100 players (Radu Albot, 97, Chennai; Karen Khachanov, 51, Auckland) and Federer, however rusty the Swiss might be, is still going to be a level above the competition the Taiwanese has faced this year (Lu has only faced seven top 100 players in 2017).

If Lu defeats Federer, he would, however be the first player in 2017 ranked in the top 100 to do so, and would jump onto the exalted level of Evgeny Donskoy as being one of the few players, alongside Haas, to beat Federer this season despite the odds being against them, the then ranked 116 Donskoy coming back from match points down in the last 16 of Dubai this year, (Haas also had to save match points) to earn a Federer win, and a Lu upset would likely also be in the same roller-coaster vein as both Federer losses this year.

Round 2 Mischa Zverev

Zverev is one of the tour’s rare serve and volleyers and just reached the semis of Stuttgart.

Federer leads the head to head 3-0 including a 6-0, 6-0 win at Halle ’13.

Upset Factor: Big, at the time, but one of those upsets that would make sense in hindsight.

Zverev has improved a lot over the past year, this week reaching a career high ranking of 29, and is not afraid of the big players, defeating Andy Murray at this season’s Australian Open. The German will also have the home crowd support so if he can get what could be a still rusty Federer to tiebreaks, where the top seed can be as vulnerable in early rounds as he is strong in later ones, and hold his nerve, the crowd might just help Zverev over the line.

Quarter-final  Florian Mayer

Mayer is the defending champion and a 2004 and 2012 Wimbledon quarter-finalist.

Federer leads 7-0 including 4-0 on grass and 3-0 at Halle.

Upset Factor: If Federer makes it to the last eight, he tends to go a stage further in Halle, the last time he lost at that stage being 2001 (to Pat Rafter). Still, if anyone is going to do inflict a last eight defeat on Federer in Halle, it may as well be the defending champion and one of the more accomplished Grass court players on the tour.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille is seeded 6th and was a 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finalist. The Frenchman also just won the Stuttgart title beating Feliciano Lopez in three sets.

Federer leads the head to head 1-0, a 6-4, 6-4 win at Paris-Bercy ’14.

Upset Factor: Pouille has the grass court skills to challenge anyone on grass, and he would need those skills to be at their very best to get a win versus Federer in the Halle quarters.

The Frenchman has won some big matches, such as his US Open ’16 last sixteen match versus Nadal, and he is in great form, so Federer will have to be sharp if he is to get past him and into a 13th Halle semi-final.

Semi-final Kei Nishikori 

Seeded third, Nishikori has a 6-3 record at Halle and is a two time semi-finalist (’14, ’15).

Federer leads Nishikori 5-2, 1-0 on Grass, beating the world No.9 at Halle ’14.

Upset Factor: Nishikori’s recent Roland Garros last eight finish was a much needed boost to his injury hit season, and that should boost his confidence, but not enough to give him the amount of confidence needed to defeat Federer in the Halle semis on the Japanese’s weakest surface.

The two have had some close matches though and while Federer is far superior on grass, Nishikori is certainly capable of beating him by a small margin should Federer be struggling with form, and with both men having had, by their standards at this point of the season, relatively little match play, this one could be very much up in the air if Nishikori can stay with the Swiss and then pull away should the chance arise.

Ivo Karlovic

One of the tour’s fastest serves and a Stuttgart finalist last weekend.

Federer leads 13-1, 3-0 on Grass including a 7-6, 7-6 win at 2015 Halle.

Upset Factor: Federer typically handles the game’s biggest servers well, as the head to head between these two testifies, the Swiss’ own serve more than good enough to hold his own to tiebreaks where his greater all court abilities make the difference so a Karlovic upset would be a worrying one going into Wimbledon.

Final- Dominic Thiem

Thiem Federer

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Thiem beat Federer last year in Stuttgart and leads 2-1, his other win coming at Rome ’16.

Upset Factor:  Thiem’s smart and at times big serving coupled with his aggressive baseline game set him up well on grass, and with the Austrian is having the best season of his career, a Thiem best of three sets win over a Federer who has recently had three months out the game would not be such a big surprise, but would be, instead, another step in the right direction for the youngest member of the top ten.

Sascha Zverev

Zverev is the defending finalist at Halle, beating Federer on his way to the championship match last season, and is tied at 1-1 in ATP matches with the Swiss.

Upset Factor: Zverev showed last year at Halle and at the Hopman Cup this season that he can take down an out of sorts Federer and so if the Swiss is not back to his early 2017 standards, there will be no surprise should Zverev repeat his last season last four victory.

If Federer is playing well, then a Zverev win would be a surprise as Federer in full flight in Halle, which he would likely be if in the final, is pretty much unbeatable, and a win for the 20 year old would mean he would have had to be serving brilliantly and keeping Federer back at the baseline, doing damage with his formidable backhand, and playing the better tennis on the big points, meaning Zverev would have to give one of his career best performances, and leave Federer going into Wimbledon with plenty to think about.

Tommy Haas

Haas has some strong pedigree on grass, winning the 2009 Halle title, beating Federer in the Halle 2012 final, and reaching the 2009 Wimbledon semis..

Federer leads 13-4, 5-2 on Grass, but the German won their last encounter on the Stuttgart grass last week.

Upset Factor: If Haas is in the final, and after what happened in Stuttgart, the upset would only be a paper one.

Emotions wise, few would be upset by a Haas win, especially with this being Haas’ last season on tour, the crowd winning either way, and both Federer and Haas getting plenty of match practice in the final lead-in to Wimbledon, and Federer unlikely to be too hurt losing to his old friend with a few levels still to shift into for the big one in SW19.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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