Re: ATP Finals
In a final between the two most accomplished active grass-court players, Lleyton Hewitt snapped a 15-match winless streak against World No. 2 Roger Federer with a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory to win the Gerry Weber Open title on his debut in Halle.
“It’s fantastic,” declared Hewitt. “Roger’s a hell of an opponent; his grass-court record speaks for itself. Any time you play Roger on a grass court you know you’re in for a hell of a battle and I was lucky to get out of today’s match.
“It’s fantastic for me; I’m getting towards the end of my career and had couple of surgeries, to know I can still compete at this level. I’m thrilled to be here and to have won another title. The tournament’s been fantastic; Roger’s obviously come here all of his career, it’s a fantastic atmosphere. I’ll be back next year.”
As winner of the ATP World Tour 250 grass-court tennis tournament, Hewitt received 250 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and €113,600. Federer, who surrendered his No. 1 ranking on Monday, earned 150 ranking points and €59,900 in prize money.
It is Hewitt’s first victory over Federer since September 2003, when he defeated the Basel native in five sets in Australia’s Davis Cup World Group semi-final tie against Switzerland. He reduced the deficit in their career-series to 8-17.
The Australian improved his perfect record in ATP World Tour grass-court finals to 7-0. He won Wimbledon in 2002 (d. Nalbandian), triumphed at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2001 (d. Canas) and is a four-time former champion at The Queen’s Club (2000-2003, 2006). He has won the most grass-court matches among active players, compiling a 98-23 lifetime mark.
The 29-year-old Adelaide native won his first ATP World Tour title since victory on clay in Houston (d. Odesnik) last year and clinched his 28th tour-level title overall – the fourth best tally among active players.
Federer looked set to record his 16th straight victory over Hewitt after breaking serve once in the sixth game to secure the first set and creating a 0/40 opportunity on the Australian’s serve in the ninth game of the second set. It proved to be the turning point in the match, though, as the eighth-seeded Hewitt rallied to hold serve and later force a tie-break, which he won 7-4 as Federer netted a backhand on the Australian’s fourth set point.
Hewitt capitalised on the swing in momentum by breaking serve in the first game of the deciding set as Federer’s unforced error count continued to grow. Hewitt had chances to extend his lead in the third and seventh games but was unable to convert as Federer forced his long-standing rival to serve for victory in the 10th game. Hewitt nearly faltered, surrendering a 30/0 lead and double faulting to give Federer a break point chance, but the right-hander held his nerve and painted the line with a forehand to deny Federer before sealing victory on his first match point after two hours and 21 minutes.
"I had to go out there and execute my game plan extremely well and I was able to do that for most of the match today," assessed Hewitt. "You still got to back yourself in the tight moments though and there were a lot of tight moments out there in the match in all three sets. In the third set I felt like I played some of my best tennis of the tournament."
“He started to play much better as the match went on," complimented Federer. "He got into a good rhythm, good zone, hardly made any errors. He had to push me there. So, it was a tough match.”
The 28-year-old Federer had been looking for his 30th straight match win in Halle and his sixth title in his past six appearances. He had not lost a match in Halle since a semi-final defeat to Nicolas Kiefer in 2002 (he did not play in 2007, 2009) and had won 76 of his past 77 grass-court matches, with the only blemish being a five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final.
Federer began the year by winning his 16th Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open (d. Murray) in January, but is yet to add to his tally of 62 tour-level titles since then, also finishing runner-up to Nadal in Madrid. It is the first time since 2001 that Federer goes into Wimbledon having won only one tour-level title in the first six months of the year.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. It’s unfortunate not coming through today, but I think my level of play is fine," said Federer. "This loss here doesn’t worry me in any way. So, I’m excited about next week. And I thought it was a good tournament.”