GERRY WEBER OPEN
Federer, Hewitt To Reignite Rivalry In Halle Final
by ATP Staff|
One of the deepest rivalries among the ATP World Tour’s elite will be continued Sunday when two former World No. 1s, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt clash in the final of the Gerry Weber Open, an ATP World Tour 250 grass-court tennis tournament in Halle.
It will be the pair’s 25th meeting and Federer will look to record his 16th straight victory over the Australian, whom he last defeated in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
"It’s always special playing him," said Federer. "We go way back. We even played doubles together in Wimbledon one year. He made the breakthrough so early in his career that to me, I kind of looked up to Lleyton, how could he be so good so early, because I had so many issues in my game. He was the youngest No. 1 in the world we ever had. So, he did special things which I will never get a chance to do. It’s amazing how many times we’ve played. It’s amazing the record I have now against him after starting off with a tough head-to-head record against him, actually."
“He’s obviously the best grass-court player around,” declared Hewitt of the six-time Wimbledon champion. “It’s a good test for me to go out there. I’m going to have to obviously play extremely well and execute what I want to do out there and try and put him under some kind of pressure.
“There are not a lot of players that have been able to win too many matches against him,” added Hewitt, reflecting on his losing record against Federer. “It shows the quality of player that he is day in, day out. To be able to play at that kind of level in big tournaments when he needs to is quite remarkable.”
World No. 2 Federer reached his third tour-level final of the season as he dismissed German Philipp Petzschner 7-6(3), 6-4 in one hour and 31 minutes. In the pair’s first meeting, Federer recovered from a break down twice in the first set before sealing it on a tie-break and then broke serve once in the fifth game of the second set to secure victory.
"Everything he was trying was working and it was playing in his favour a lot. So, it was a tough start for me to get into the match, to get a feel of how he plays," explained Federer. "It was an interesting match for me, especially playing him for the first time. I’m happy the way I played because it wasn’t easy but I found a way which was great."
The 28-year-old Swiss is looking to win his second tour-level title of the season after capturing his 16th Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open (d. Murray) in January. He also finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.
The top seed is attempting to win a sixth title in his past six appearances in Halle, after triumphing in 2003-2006 and again in 2008. He has lost only one match on grass since 2003 (76-1 record), with that defeat coming to Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final.
Hewitt closed on the milestone of 100 grass-court match wins as he battled past home hope Benjamin Becker 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-2. The Australian, who triumphed at Wimbledon in 2002 (d. Nalbandian), has won the most grass-court matches among active players and improved to a 97-23 lifetime mark.
It was not without a struggle, though.
World No. 52 Becker edged a close first set, in which neither player was able to break serve, and rallied from a 3-5 deficit in the second set to force another tie-break. Hewitt held his nerve, though, and won four straight points from 3-3 to level the match. The eighth seed then immediately capitalised on his momentum with a break of serve at the start of the third set and went on to close out victory in two hours and 23 minutes.
The 29-year-old Hewitt is through to his 42nd tour-level final and his first of the season. The Adelaide native is bidding to win his first title since lifting the trophy on clay in Houston (d. Odesnik) last year.
“It’s nice anytime I’m playing any kind of final,” said Hewitt. “Obviously the big picture is in a week's time in Wimbledon and wanting to do the right things for there. But obviously my first week on grass, to be through to the final ... Every time I step on the court I give 100 per cent anyway. Tomorrow is going to be no different.”
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