Eight time champion in Halle Roger Federer gave the perfect boost to his chances of adding another Wimbledon title when the Championships start July 3rd as he entered his 13th semi final in Halle with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-4 win over the defending champion Florian Mayer of Germany. Having beaten Mayer thrice before at the same venue in 2005, 2012 and 2015 prior to their quarter-final on Friday, the top seed improved his head to head record to 8-0 against Mayer and also his record in Halle is now 57-6.
Next up is the unseeded Karen Khachanov who won an all Russian battle of two #NextGenATP stars against Andrey Rublev in the first match of the day. The fast rising Khachanov ranked 38th is coached by the Argentine Galo Blanco. His winning scoreline 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-3 against the wild card Rublev ranked 106th in the world.
Federer got the lone service break in the fourth game of the opening set and despite Mayer saving three set points on his serve at 2-5, the top seed comfortably sealed the set with a love game capping it with an ace. Federer broke again in the fifth game of the second set, Mayer staved off two match points at 3-5, but another forehand winner from Federer on his first match point wrapped up the contest in 66 minutes. He had 11 aces, hit 32 winners but also had 22 unforced errors. Mayer had 18 winners, 5 aces and 15 unforced errors.
The other semi final will pit the veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet and the local favourite Alexander Zverev. The 30th ranked Gasquet scored a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over the Dutchman Robin Haase. Gasquet, a 14 time winner on tour, broke serve five times, but was also broken twice in his 93 minute encounter against the 42nd ranked Haase who has won two ATP titles in his career.
In the last match of the day, the crowd was treated to a home win as the fourth seeded Zverev kept alive his hopes and a repeat of last years semi final against Federer now looms large on Sunday. The 20 year old held off an inspired challenge from seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut by reaching the last four with a come from behind win, closing the match out with a breadstick set : 6-7(6), 7-6(1), 6-1 was the final score.
Zverev had beaten Federer in last years semi final at the Gerry Weber Open. Agut and Zverev held serve at throughout the first set and Agut saved a set point with a delicate backhand drop volley winner, taking the last three points and the tie-break 8-6.
The second set too had no service breaks but Zverev raised his level in the tie-break, a forehand winner levelled the match at one set apiece. The final set was all one way traffic, as Zverev reeled off six consecutive games to advance in two hours and 12 minutes. Zverev served 19 aces and never faced a break point, hitting 49 winners to 37 unforced errors.
At the Aegon Championships played in Queen’s Club, London, former champions Marin Cilic of Croatia and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria stayed on course for a faceoff in the final on Sunday. Both will have to overcome quality in-form left handed opponents as Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Giles Muller of Luxembourg continued this impressive grass court form with solid wins on Friday.
The 2012 champion Cilic ended the hopes of yet another left hander, Donald Young of U.S.A., with a 6-4, 7-5 win and next faces Muller, winner of the warmup event in Den Bosch, Holland last week. Muller also had a straight set 6-4, 7-6(5) win over another American Sam Querrey.
Grigor Dimitrov, who has won two titles this year in Brisbane and Sofia, defeated the GenNext star Daniil Medvedev of Russia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Dimitrov, seeded sixth and ranked 11th, won the title in 2014 and next plays the Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez who ended the hopes of the hapless Tomas Berdych 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 7-5 in the longest match of the day lasting 2 hours and 27 minutes.
The finalist in Stuttgart last week, Lopez served 18 aces, while last years semi finalist at Wimbledon, Berdych hit 24 aces. Berdych was the Wimbledon runner up in 2010, has slipped to 14th in the rankings lost service only once in the match while Lopez was never broken in the entire match.
Following are the last four line ups with my pick mentioned first :-
Halle, Gerry Weber Open:
Roger Federer (1) (22-2) v. Karen Khachanov (-) (16-16); first match up
Alexander Zverev (4) (32-11) v. Richard Gasquet (16-7); Zverev leads 1-0.
Aegon Championships, Queen’s Club, London:
Marin Cilic (4) (22-12) v. Gilles Muller (-) (23-11); Cilic leads 1-0
Grigor Dimitrov (6) (24-10) v. Feliciano Lopez (-) (17-13); Dimitrov leads 2-1
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]