Two of tennis all time greats Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will contest in the final of a grass court event in Halle and Queen’s Club respectively as they continue their preparation for adding to their tally of Wimbledon crowns starting July 2nd.
While Federer is looking to capture a record extending 10th title in Halle, Djokovic will hope to extend his feat of winning atleast one title for the thirteenth year running as he takes on the 2012 champion Marin Cilic at the Queen’s Club in London.
Federer, a winner of 98 title on tour including 20 grand slam titles, has won a record 18 grass court titles, but the Swiss has never triumphed at two tour-level grass court events ahead of Wimbledon in one season.
The eight time Wimbledon champion defeated American qualifier Denis Kudla 7-6(1),7-5 on Saturday to reach his 12th Gerry Weber Open final. He now has a 63-6 record at this ATP 500 event, which until the 2015 edition was only a ATP 250 event.
Federer got off to a good start breaking Kudla early on in the first Semi-final, but the 109th ranked Kudla broke back immediately. Both players held serve easily and then the Swiss maestro raced to a 6-0 lead in the tie-break which he claimed 7-1.
Federer then broke serve in the eleventh game before holding serve to win his 20th consecutive match on grass since losing to the now retired Tommy Haas of Germany after having match points in Stuttgart last year in the second round.
The Swiss magician fired 12 aces and won 84 per cent first serve points. His 20 match winning streak on grass is his second longest, having previously won 65 consecutive matches on the surface from 2003 to 2008.
The 20 time slam champion goes on to face the Croat Borna Coric on Sunday after the 21 year old GenNext star advanced as Roberto Bautista Agut retired following an unfortunate slip, with Coric serving at 3-2.
Federer has a 2-0 head to head record against Coric, including a come from behind win in three sets at Indian Wells this year. The 34th ranked Croat will be aiming for his second career title.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic will contest his 99th career final on Tour and his first since winning at Eastbourne last year after he defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6(5),6-4 as the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club. In what is his first appearance at this event since 2010, he will play last year’s runner up Marin Cilic of Croatia in the final. Djokovic is 68-30 in your level finals and holds an imposing 14-1 head to head record against the 2012 champion who finished runner up at Wimbledon last year losing to Roger Federer.
Since returning from injury early this year, Djokovic was only 6-6 before playing in Rome this year, but has now won 12 of his last fourteen matches. He is now 49-2 in tour level matches against French opponents, and extended his record to 11-0 against the 61 year old Chardy.
The other semi final as expected was dominated by big serving as neither Cillic nor Nick Kyrgios lost their serve in the 85 minute encounter. Cillic fired 11 aces and never faced a break point in the whole match, while the temperamental Aussie served 16 aces and saved two break points he faced in what was the pair’s third meeting.
Cilic won 7-6(3),7-6(4); and now leads Kyrgios 2-1 in their head to head. Cilic is now assured of being seeded third at Wimbledon which follows it’s own seeding system giving added weightage to grass court performance over the preceeding 24 months.
Prediction :- Federer is now 25-2 in 2018 including a sixth Australian Open, Rotterdam title and Stuttgart last week. He saved two match points to the enigmatic Frenchman Benoit Paire in the second round but with the prospect of completing the La Decima in Halle, he will be in no mood to relinquish his crown.
Coric almost beat him on hard courts at Indian Wells, and it would be a major upset if Federer does not claim his 99th career title. It could be in straight sets, perhaps three with at least one tie-break.
Cilic, is now 26-9 for the year and like Djokovic who is 18-8 for the season, is bidding for his first title in 2018. It would be a big challenge for the Serb to play a top quality grass court player but he takes a lot of confidence with his 14-1 head to head record against the 2014 U.S. Open champion.
The in form Cilic should win it in three sets, with at least one settled in a tie-break.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]