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Watch highlights as Roger Federer beats Guido Pella to reach the MercedesCup semi-finals on Friday. The Swiss is now one win away from reclaiming the No. 1 ATP Ranking from Rafael Nadal. Video: MercedesCup. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP World Tour.

Fantastic Federer Flies Closer To No. 1

The Swiss will face Kyrgios in the semi-finals

Roger Federer is now one win away from reclaiming the No. 1 ATP Ranking from Rafael Nadal.

The Swiss No. 1 seed defeated Argentine Guido Pella 6-4, 6-4 at the MercedesCup on Friday in his second match since 24 March. Trailing Nadal by just 100 points entering the week, Federer needs to reach the final in Stuttgart to guarantee his third stint atop the rankings this season.

"I thought I was in good control today. I thought I served well. I didn't give Guido many chances to get into my service games, except maybe the last couple," Federer said. "I was happy that I also got more rhythm today."

Despite being two triumphs from taking World No. 1 on 18 June, Federer says it didn't cross his mind while he was playing Pella. 

"Funny enough, I didn't think of it today," Federer said. "I was really just focused on the task at hand. But I'm sure that the next match, especially now that you reminded me as well, I will think of it. It's all good. In the match that you play for World No. 1, it's clearly going to be in the back of your head."

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He will next face talented Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who defeated 2017 Fever-Tree Championships winner Feliciano Lopez in three sets. Federer and Kyrgios's FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at 1-1, with all six of their sets going to tie-breaks.

The 36-year-old has already doubled his victory total in Stuttgart this week after arriving in Germany this year with a 2-2 record at the event. One year ago, Federer fell against then-World No. 302 Tommy Haas in his opening match. This year's Australian Open and Rotterdam champion is attempting to win his 18th grass-court trophy. With his triumph against Pella, Federer has won 14 consecutive matches on the mown lawns dating back to title runs at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

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The Swiss showed his prowess on the surface, frequently swooping to net with swift aplomb against the left-handed Pella, who had not won a tour-level grass-court match (0-4) before this tournament. Federer lost just one point on serve in the first set, earning a break with a whipping inside-out forehand winner. He didn't let slip the momentum, dancing on the grass to hit an inside-in forehand passing shot for an immediate break in the second set. 

"I thought I was able to stay aggressive. I really wanted to cut down the length of the points as much as possible to see how that goes," Federer said. "I think that was a good decision."

Federer faced only one moment of difficulty, falling behind 15/40 while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set. But Federer battled through with strong serving.

Did You Know?
Roger Federer got off to a career-best 17-0 start in 2018, before losing back-to-back matches in the Indian Wells final (l. to Del Potro) and his Miami opener (l. to Kokkinakis).

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