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Watch highlights as Sascha Zverev and Florian Mayer set an All-German final in Halle. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: ATP/Peter Staples

Zverev Dethrones Federer In Halle, Sets Mayer Final

Home hope hands Swiss first defeat to a teenager in nearly 10 years

Next Generation star Alexander Zverev registered the biggest win of his young career on Saturday, toppling eight-time champion Roger Federer at the Gerry Weber Open.

Zverev took the semi-final encounter 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and six minutes, booking his spot in his second ATP World Tour final of the year (l. to Thiem in Nice). He is the youngest player to beat Federer since Rafael Nadal did so on his 19th birthday in the 2005 Roland Garros semis.

The 19 year old is also the first teen to upset a Top 5 opponent since Andy Murray fell to then 18-year-old Borna Coric in Dubai last year. He is the fourth to achieve the feat since 2014...

Year
Tournament

Teenager

Top 5 Opponent
 2016  Halle Alexander Zverev
No. 3 Roger Federer
 2015  Dubai Borna Coric
No. 3 Andy Murray
 2014  Basel Borna Coric
No. 3 Rafael Nadal
 2014  Wimbledon Nick Kyrgios
No. 1 Rafael Nadal

"I feel pretty good," said Zverev. "I played very good and served well once again. I think that helped me a little bit and I played well in the important moments. It’s unbelievable to get a win against Roger, especially on grass.

"It’s nice to get a win like that. It’s nice with that kind of match going into Wimbledon and obviously into the final here as well. Don’t forget that that is a very big match for me as well. We’ll see what happens tomorrow but I’m happy with my performance today."

World No. 38 Zverev, the highest-ranked teen in the Emirates ATP Rankings, dropped just four points on serve in the 39-minute opener, firing 14 winners in total. Neither player earned a break chance and it was the German who notched the first mini-break for 3-1 in the ensuing tie-break. He would survive a break back from Federer and capture the set on his first set point. The World No. 3, who owns a 54-6 record in 14 appearances in Halle, saw his sets-won streak at the grass-court event snapped at 15.

In the second set, they would remain on serve through the first 10 games. Two aces from Federer turned aside a pair of break points at 4-3 and three service winners from Zverev denied a trio of chances in the next game. But Federer would finally convert the first break of the match at 5-5, striking a sublime drop shot winner as Zverev slipped at the baseline. He would force a decider at the Gerry Weber Stadion.

Zverev, recipient of the 2015 Emirates ATP Star of Tomorrow award, stayed the course in the third set and was not rattled after facing break points in his first two service games. He grabbed the decisive break for 4-2 as Federer saw a backhand pulled wide and would hold on for the victory in just over two hours, hammering 39 winners, including eight aces, while staving off six of seven break points faced. The first German to reach the Halle final since Tommy Haas lifted the trophy in 2012, Zverev will face countryman Florian Mayer on Sunday.

Federer failed to reach the final in Halle for the first time in 11 straight appearances at the ATP World Tour 500 event. The Swiss, who prevailed in their first encounter less than a month ago in Rome, was bidding for an unprecedented ninth title. 

"It’s always tough to play somebody the first time," Zverev added. "You don’t know what to expect, especially against him. He likes to rush people and is doing the best out of that. In important moments, he plays faster than anybody else and that was something I never felt before and obviously playing in Rome was a big help for this win I think."

Mayer, meanwhile, secured his first final berth on the ATP World Tour since lifting his maiden trophy in Bucharest in 2011. The German defeated a fatigued Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in 66 minutes, facing just one break point. World No. 192 Mayer, who returned to action a year ago following a lengthy absence due to an adductor tear, is the lowest-ranked tour-level finalist since No. 240 Nicolas Mahut won in 's-Hertogenbosch in 2013.

The 32 year old will contest his sixth ATP World Tour final and first on grass. It will be just the second all-German final in Halle, with the previous clash of countrymen coming in 2011 (Kohlschreiber d. Petzschner).

"I think it’s going to be a very tough match," Mayer said of the final. "He’s a young, upcoming German player. He will be in the Top 10 for sure in the future. I think he will be the favourite. Maybe the pressure is a little bit more on his side to win his first title. We will see. I will give my best and then we will see what happens."

Thiem was bidding to reach the final at back-to-back grass-court events after winning the title in Stuttgart. He saved three match points before succumbing. The Austrian, who leads the ATP World Tour with 47 match wins and 59 matches played in 2016, enjoyed his first week inside the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings at No. 7.

FINAL PREVIEW: After upsetting Top 10 opponents in the semi-finals, 19-year-old Alexander Zverev and 32-year-old Florian Mayer will meet Sunday in the second All-German final in the 24-year history of the Gerry Weber Open. In 2011, Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated World No. 8 Gael Monfils and Philipp Petzschner beat No. 7 Tomas Berdych to reach the championship match, won by Kohlschreiber when Petzschner retired with a lower back injury.

Zverev and Mayer have written a similar script this week, securing stunning wins on Saturday. Just three years old when Roger Federer made his Halle debut in 2000, Zverev upset the eight-time champion in three sets for the biggest win of his career. Then, Mayer continued his own dream run by defeating No. 7 Dominic Thiem, the ATP World Tour wins leader in 2016.

Mayer is 192nd in the Emirates ATP Rankings and, until this week, was outside the Top 200 for more than 16 months. Sidelined by an adductor injury for much of that time, Mayer qualified en route to the quarter-finals at Stuttgart last week, then used a protected ranking of No. 34 in Halle. He beat the Stuttgart champion Thiem, 2015 Halle finalist Andreas Seppi and Brian Baker in straight sets, also receiving a second-round walkover from No. 6 Kei Nishikori (rib).

Lucky loser Nicklas Kulti is the only player ever to reach the Halle final ranked lower than Mayer, finishing as runner-up to Nicolas Kiefer in 1999. Kulti was ranked No. 303 at the time. Mayer is the lowest-ranked finalist anywhere on tour since No. 240 Nicolas Mahut qualified and captured the ’s-Hertogenbosch title in June 2013. The 2004 ATP Newcomer of the Year is appearing in his first tour-level final since winning his lone title at Bucharest in September 2011.

While Mayer can make history due to his ranking, Zverev can do the same based on his age. At 19 years, 60 days old, Zverev is bidding to become the youngest champion on the ATP World Tour since an 18-year-old Nishikori at Delray Beach in February 2008. The last teenager to win a title was Marin Cilic at New Haven in August 2008. Zverev is the youngest player to defeat Federer since Rafael Nadal did so on his 19th birthday in the 2005 Roland Garros semi-finals.

That’s a sign of good things to come for the ‘Next Generation’ wins leader Zverev. Nadal won his first of 14 Grand Slam titles two days later, while Cilic beat Nishikori for the 2014 US Open title. Zverev is also attempting to become the youngest champion in Gerry Weber Open history. The only younger finalist was 18-year-old Andrei Medvedev, runner-up at the inaugural Halle event in 1993. Mayer vs. Zverev is the third Halle final to feature a pair of unseeded players after Kohlschreiber vs. Petzschner in 2011 and David Prinosil vs. Richard Krajicek in 2000.

In the doubles final, No. 2 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya meet No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram. Kubot and Peya saved four match points to defeat Kohlschreiber and Thiem in the first round and another match point to beat Baker and Denis Istomin in the quarter-finals. Klaasen and Ram are playing for their first team title since winning the 2015 Gerry Weber Open. They defeated brothers in back-to-back matches, beating Alexander and Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals and No. 1 seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in the semi-finals.