Federer breezes to title in Halle and blows away reports of his demise
Chris Bowers in Halle
The Guardian, Monday June 16 2008
Just as the sporting community was preparing to write off Roger Federer, the best tennis player in the world has bounced back to announce that he will not be quite the pushover at Wimbledon that some may have expected after his drubbing in the French Open final eight days ago.
Federer picked up his fifth Gerry Weber Open title yesterday, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 in the final. It was a performance that showed the Swiss has lost nothing of his ability to raise his level on the crucial points and that the forehand that let him down against Rafael Nadal in Paris is working well again.
Martina Navratilova used to say of all the records she broke that, if you play for long enough, the records will tumble by themselves but, still seven weeks short of his 27th birthday, Federer has notched up his 55th career title and equalled Pete Sampras's open era record of 10 on grass.
"I didn't know about Sampras's total," said Federer after his success. "It's nice, because there are some players who never win titles on grass, Tim Henman never won one, so it's quite an achievement to be already at 10 but I need to look at the bigger picture and that's Wimbledon now."
Of Federer's five titles here this could prove as important as his first in 2003, which told him he could win silverware on lawn tennis's original surface. Having skipped the Halle event last year, he needed it more this time and admitted to feeling the pressure earlier in the week when he was picking up the pieces of his disastrous defeat at Roland Garros.
"Once you make a decision to come somewhere you hope for a good week," he said. "I was just hoping not to bow out in the first couple of rounds, because I'd then have looked back on four days that would have been really tough after losing in Paris. For this reason I'm really excited about the way I played. I didn't drop serve throughout the week, which I think is the first time I've ever done that, so I couldn't be more happy - I beat quality players and my level of play was very good. All that on about two hours' practice to get used to the grass after clay."
The statisticians will correct Federer, left - his title in Qatar in January 2005 was also achieved without dropping serve - but the message to those who feel he will be vulnerable at Wimbledon is no less potent. After seven good but not outstanding games of yesterday's final he seized a couple of half-chances to break in the eighth and a similar predatory pounce in the seventh game of the second set sufficed for victory in 73 minutes.
In particular he was left satisfied with his state of health and denies there are any lingering symptoms from the bout of glandular fever he suffered in January. "People tell me when they saw my matches in Paris that I still have it in my system. It's nice that people are concerned for me but I honestly don't feel it. I don't wake up any more feeling sick or tired, and this week I haven't had any problems of fatigue, just a few problems in my legs from the change of surface but the next day they have gone.
"I felt like I had a spring in my step, which is also a good sign after what I went through in the first part of the year. Sometimes you can recuperate during a tournament but I didn't feel I had to, because Paris wasn't that difficult physically this year."