Another Halle final awaits for the GOAT as he defeated Kei Nishikori 6-3 7-6(4) in 1 hour 13 minutes and will now play Alejandro Falla for a shot at his 7th title.
I know a few fans were worried Fed was under tennised going into this match after the walkover he received in the Quarter Final but his serve was at it's precisional best making 76% of first serves. He also played with a lot of intent, pushing Nishikori way behind the baseline and finishing countless points with some crisp volleying.
The win today now means Federer is playing in his 9th consecutive final in Halle after withdrawing in 2007, 2009 and 2011. It also gives him a shot at defending a title for the first time since 2011. Quite an important final even though it's only a 250.
Quick Match Recap
A lightening quick start from Federer here as he found his first serve from the word go. Nishikori also started solidly but at 2-3 some errant ball striking and some solid Federer forehands saw him drop serve. Of course Roger then gave the Japanese an opportunity to break straight back but he hung on to hold for 5-2 and then served out the set 6-3.
Winning the first set is key on grass but like we saw in Miami, Nishikori can easily come back from a set down to snatch victory. However when he dropped serve in his opening service game I though Fed was home and dry. Of course there was a slight twist in the tale as Nishikori broke back immediately and started to look the sharper of the two off the ground.
With Nishikori holding serve more and more comfortably it required some precision serving from the Swiss to keep in touch and force the tie break. With Roger having an 8-9 losing record in breakers this year it was pleasing to see him get an immediate mini break to lead 2-0. However a sick return from Nishikori saw him win 4 points in a row to lead 4-2.
2-4 is significant scoreboard pressure but some sweet forehands from Fed saw him claw back the mini break and when Nishkori went wide with a forehand he lead 5-4 before hitting a huge serve to bring up a match point which he converted the first time of asking. Albeit without actually realising he'd won :D.
|K. Nishikori||R. Federer|
|1st Serve %||69%||76%|
|1st Serve Points Won||24/37 (65%)||37/53 (70%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||14/17 (82%)||11/17 (65%)|
|Break Points Saved||0/2 (0%)||1/2 (50%)|
|Service Games Played||10||11|
|1st Return Points Won||16/53 (30%)||13/37 (35%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||6/17 (35%)||3/17 (18%)|
|Break Points Won||1/2 (50%)||2/2 (100%)|
|Return Games Played||11||10|
|Total Service Points Won||38/54 (70%)||48/70 (69%)|
|Total Return Points Won||22/70 (31%)||16/54 (30%)|
|Total Points Won||60/124 (48%)||64/124 (52%)|
Federer Doesn't Realise He has Won
Thoughts on the Match
Very impressive serving display from Federer today and I enjoyed his desire to try get to the net wherever possible. It caught Nishikori off guard plenty times and won him plenty cheap points which keeps the pressure off his service games.
It's quite strange to think he was in the semi finals having only played 1 match on grass previously so I think this was an impressive display against a guy who prior to getting injury in the Madrid final was on a hot streak of form.
I also think Fed learnt his lesson from his recent loss in Miami to Nishikori too and he didn't let Nishikori dictate from the baseline. He kept pushing him back whenever had had chance, mixed it up with the slice and constantly asked Nishikori to come up with passing shots by ghosting into the net whenever he had chance.
In terms of improvements as usual it's just the return games and avoiding hitting too many mid court, weak backhands. He hit quite a few nothing shots into the middle of the court today and paid the price. It will be interesting to see if Falla tries to employ a Nadal like strategy of hitting CC FH to BH in tomorrow final. However is backhand is his better shot of the two so it's not quite as big a concern.
Predictions vs. Falla
Next up is Colombian Alejandro Falla who defeated Kohlschreiber in 3 sets to make only the second tour final of his career. This guy is no stranger to playing Roger and although he's 0-6 in the H2H I don't think he's going to be a pushover here. 4 of the 6 meetings between these to have been on grass, the most recent one coming at the London Olympics where Falla took Fed to 3 sets.
No doubt some of you will remember Roger's match against Falla at Wimbledon in 2010 in the first round which was a bit of an epic. Falla had a 2 set lead in this one and also served for the match in the fourth set. Fed broke him to 30 but then had to save another break point of at 5-5 before finally running away with the tie break 7-1 and the fifth set 6-0.
I've seen Falla play quite a few matches over the years including when he took out Isner at Wimbledon 2012 so I know he's a very good match player who does everything well. If he puts his mind to it and plays aggressive he can be extremely dangerous. He's a lefty too which always makes thing a little bit more awkward.
It's also no secret that he likes to play Federer; that all stems back to 2004 when Fed schooled him for the loss of just 3 games, again at Wimbledon. Falla said that is one of his all time favourite career moments, simply because he got to play against the defending champion on Centre Court at SW19.
Falla has a very solid backhand which Fed will need to be careful of tomorrow for sure. It's an interesting match up here because Falla's favourite serve goes into Roger's weakness, and Federer's favourite serve goes into Falla's strength. That potentially means Falla wins more cheap points than Federer does, which then means Roger needs to have a consistent day at the back of the court in extended rallies.
Returning the lefty serve out wide in the ad court is always a tough one for Fed as it naturally puts him at full stretch on his weaker wing so he'll need to get the ball back in play otherwise I can see a tie break or two happening.
I'll pick Fed in two close sets but he will need to serve extremely well and make sure he pushes Falla behind the baseline when he has chance. 7-5 7-6(4). Allez!