Roger Federer's grass-court season is up and running thanks to a 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over Ilya Ivashka in the first round of the Noventi Open.
The ten-time champion in Halle, playing on the surface for the first time in two years, overcame a slow-ish start to outplay his opponent as he recorded the victory in 1 hour and 34 minutes without dropping serve.
Federer will next face Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to receive. Ivashka kicked off with a solid hold to love for 1-0.
The Swiss quickly levelled for 1-1, but Ivashka fired down another love hold for a 2-1 lead.
In game four, a sluggish looking Federer had to save two break points en route to holding for 2-2.
With the court half in shadow, Federer again couldn't really get a return in play as Ivashka fired down his third love hold in as many games to lead 3-2.
A comfortable hold, sealed by his first backhand winner of the match drew Federer level at 3-3, and he was able to win his first return point of the match in game six as Ivashka held for 4-3.
In game eight, Ivashka was back holding to love, but Federer wasn't far behind as he held to fifteen for 5-5.
With just twelve points dropped on serve in twelve games, the set went into a tie break, and it was Federer who gained an early mini-break.
Ivashka recaptured it immediately, but two back to back errors allowed Federer to establish a 4-1 lead.
That was quickly 6-3, and although Federer double-faulted on his first set point, a solid volley converted the second to take the opening set.
The Swiss kicked off the second set with a hold from 15-30 to lead 1-0. Ivashka then too recovered from 15-30 to level at 1-1.
Federer finally started to find his range on the forehand during the opening exchanges of the set, pushing Ivashka to 30-30 in game four, but the Belarussian held for 2-2.
With return points still at a premium, the pair exchanged back to back holds for 4-4.
However, in the tenth game, Federer forced Ivashka to deuce and fashioned a match point. A nervy looking Ivashka saved it thanks to a net cord on a volley and then escaped the game to level at 5-5.
A speedy hold put Federer up 6-5, and thanks to more attacking intent, he found three more match points at 0-40.
A showboating backhand saw him waste the first, and Ivashka saved the second with a big serve, but a forehand error helped Federer convert the third to move into round two.
|Ilya Ivashka||Roger Federer|
|1st Serve||61% (43/70)||75% (57/76)|
|1st Serve Points Won||72% (31/43)||77% (44/57)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||74% (20/27)||53% (10/19)|
|Break Points Saved||75% (3/4)||100% (2/2)|
|Service Games Played||12||12|
|1st Serve Return Points Won||23% (13/57)||28% (12/43)|
|2nd Serve Return Points Won||47% (9/19)||26% (7/27)|
|Break Points Converted||0% (0/2)||25% (1/4)|
|Return Games Played||12||12|
|Service Points Won||73% (51/70)||71% (54/76)|
|Return Points Won||29% (22/76)||27% (19/70)|
|Net Points Won||80% (12/15)||79% (15/19)|
|Total Points Won||50% (73/146)||50% (73/146)|
Thoughts on the Match
Yes, I missed it, I haven't played a tournament in two years on this surface. I've done the hardcourt, done the clay and now I've done the grass so it's been great being back in Halle, I love playing here.
Just very little crowd, it's obviously a bit of disappointment for all of us, but at the same time, like you said I'm excited to be back on the green grass and getting a win is always very nice.
You can't compare this to the clay courts, you aren't going to get those rallies you're maybe looking for. You'll get more service winners, aces, you can get your opponent guessing much more on the serve and return games, more on this surface than any other, especially here in Halle. I had a tough moment early on in the first set when he had breakpoints, so that was crucial to get out of those and I played a really good tie-breaker which I was happy about.
I think as the match went on, I started to create more opportunities and started to calm my nerves a bit and overall I think I served very well, clearly it can always be a little bit better but I'm very happy I was able to get through the first one.
Federer on his win over Ivashka
An impressive start from Federer here, and I thought it was a typical opening grass-court match from him. A few nervy moments in the opening set, but he played a good first set tie break, served well, and as the match wore, he started to find his feet.
The problem with no crowd is the match feels exceptionally flat no matter what happens, so that can give the impression the level of tennis is terrible, but in the second set, I thought Federer played well. He made more returns, got Ivashka flustered on the baseline and was by far the more attacking player.
Still, plenty to work on, and he'll be facing far more competent grass players in the coming weeks. Ivashka gave a good account of himself, and it was only when he got tight in the bigger moments that cost him otherwise it was an evenly matched tie but Roger's ability to press and take the ball that bit earlier proved decisive.
- Solid start
- Served well
- Found his forehand range in the second set
Predictions vs Auger-Aliassime
Next up for Federer is Felix Auger-Aliassime after he defeated Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets.
The Canadian came into Halle off the back of making the final in Stuttgart for a second time and although he couldn't break his losing finals streak which now stands at W:0 L:8, it was an impressive week from him after a rather woeful clay season.
Federer has practised with Auger-Aliassime several times so will know his game pretty well and he will certainly be a danger as he's got powerful groundstrokes.
Overall I'd say he's just a better version of Ivashka in the first round so I expect a tight match.
What did you guys think of Federer's first grass-court match in two years? Let me know in the comments.