Hey guys, I'm back from a long weekend in Halle where I got to see Roger win his first title of 2013 and win his 6th Gery Weber Open crown which was awesome to watch live. This has obviously meant the blog has suffered in terms of updates for the last few days but now I'm now back on UK shores I thought I'd do a quick recap post of the 3 matches I wasn't able to blog about which of course includes the all important final.
I'd also like to say thanks to all of you who kept the discussion going on my Federer / Stebe match report throughout the tournament. It's good to see that even if I'm not able to keep up with all the matches that everyone takes the discussion forward to Roger's next matches without needing a dedicated post for it so thanks 🙂
Federer Defeats Zverev 6-0 6-0
I watched this one on TV after around 2 hours sleep so wasn't paying much attention but luckily I didn't need to as Roger got the job done in just 43 minutes. After looking average against Stebe this was complete domination as Roger completely outplayed Zverev in all areas which was just the sort of match we were looking for.
Roger's level was high in this one but I also felt Zverev was a great match up for him, he served and volleyed every point but didn't really have a big serve or any sort of weapon to follow it up. It kind of reminded me of how Henman used to get picked off against great returners like Hewitt at Wimbledon except even more one sided.
Roger really just returned too well for Zverev and that won him the match, considering he's faced some of the biggest servers in the history of the sport this was mere childs play for someone like Fed and he could just control the ball to where he wanted it go, forcing Zverev to hit awkward volleys from below the net giving himself ample time to hit an easy pass.
Roger actually sounded quite apologetic in his presser after, I guess that just sums up his style and how he takes into account everything not just himself. I suppose deep down he'd be happy with the result and scoreline, but at the same time he'd have no doubt felt bad for Zverev and the fans who didn't get to see a competitive match. Regardless of what Roger said, or thought, a double bagel in any match has to be good for confidence.
Federer Exacts Revenge Over Haas 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
So this was the first match I attended live in Halle and even though Roger lost to Haas in the final last year I felt pretty confident about this one as I just figured Roger would really be up for it and would want to set the record straight after giving Haas the title last time around.
That turned out to be exactly the case as even though Roger dropped the first set he responded really well when he needed to. He could have easily gotten downbeat getting broken after saving 2 break points to make deuce and then failing to break the Haas serve when he was serving for the set at 5-3 after he had 15-40 but he responded in a positive manner.
One thing I noticed when watching live that's not as easy to see from a TV screen is that you could tell Roger was putting more into his serve and looking to crank up his speed + find the lines. He definitely did this in the second set when he needed to and broke immediately to take a 3-0 lead before serving out the set to love to make it all square.
After that I knew there could only be one winner here, Roger was looking better and better as the match went on and Haas was serving more and more double faults. This cost him big time in the final set as at 1-1 he served a double on break point to put Roger fully in the driving seat. From there on in it was just a case of Roger holding onto his serve which he did with ease and closed out the match without any problems which was very pleasing to see.
He served 15 aces and I thought all areas of his game were working well, the forehand on the run let him down in the first set but as the match wore on he looked to be moving much much better especially on the forehand side which definitely aided his ability to stay in points and keep on top in the rallies.
The great thing about Halle as a tournament is that you get to watch both semi final matches with just 1 ticket which I think is great for the fans. After the Fed semi, we then got to watch Youzhny vs. Gasquet which was another fun match.
Youzhny was really playing in the zone for most of the match, in fact I can't recall him missing a ball for most of the match and Gasquet was just not at the races.
After seeing Youzhny play well I wasn't overly worried for the final but I just knew it would be a test for Roger and even though Youzhny was 14-0 in the H2H a win wasn't beyond him here as he playing very aggressively and rarely missing. The good thing about the H2H is that you know Youzhny would play with the mindset he had to play aggressive and maybe go for too much.
He actually has quite a big game and plays very close to the baseline but I also think he's a heavy handed player and lacks finesse in the forecourt. I like his willingess to punch volleys firmly but sometimes they don't need it and you'll push them wide or long which I thought might Roger might be able to exploit.
Roger defeats Youzhny to win 6th Halle Title
So onto the blockbuster match, the sun was shining in Halle and it was high time that Roger got his first title of 2013 and his 77th overall. Luckily that turned out to be the case as Roger got the job done in 3 sets 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 and I was really happy to be a part of it as it's only the third time I've seen Roger win a title live (last time World Tour Finals 2011) and he definitely made up for Rotterdam where I went to watch him but he crashed out in the Quarters!
In terms of the match itself it looks fairly close from the scoreline but after dropping the first set by playing a poor tie break; Roger really hit back and you could tell he was up for the fight here and would do whatever it takes to win the title. It was Roger 3.0 like really and I don't think he played his best match in terms of shot making or genius levels but was there when it mattered and in finals that's all that counts.
I think if Roger was in an ultra confident mood he'd have got the job done in straights here but he's not got that title winning feeling in his racquet this year and was playing a guy who's been in white hot form all week.
No doubt many will say Youzhny is not a top tier opponent and the 14-0 H2H record against Fed proves that but I kind of disagree with that, Youzhny isn't a slam contender but he does have a very effective game. He's one of those guys that can beat anyone on his day, but also lose to anyone too. He can go from good to bad very quickly and self destruct but that also makes him dangerous.
He's beaten many of the top guys before but just doesn't have the required game style to take out Fed which means he's definitely a favourable match up for the GOAT. But after seeing him zone against Gasquet there's no doubt he is an opponent that you will take notice of should he land in your section of the draw and I expect him to make the second week at Wimbledon.
No doubt some fans will be critical of Roger losing the first set but winning the title is all that matters here. A few missed first serves cost him the first breaker but it's how Roger responded is how we should judge this match. He responded positively, served better, was up for a fight, plenty of come ons after the big points and that makes this match a positive. He also had no troubles serving out the second set or the match, which proves the confidence is coming back and after a lean spell I think he can have a good end to the year.
You could clearly see Roger making more effort and not losing focus in the big moments, he was fully engaged throughout the match and I think that makes him very tough to beat especially in a final.
My Thoughts on the Halle Tournament
Winning solves everything really. So, for me it’s great in terms of confidence. I feel like I know what I need to do. It’s good to fight as well the last couple of matches after two easy ones at the beginning. I had to come from losing the first set twice, then coming back to win is a great feeling. There’s still things I believe I can improve on but I think that will then happen when the moment is there when Wimbledon starts. But overall I’m very pleased with the way I played and I’m happy with the week.
My thoughts on Halle are pretty a carbon copy of Roger's assessment in his post match press conference. I don't think he's close to his top level, but he's right in there and getting matches under his belt which is key right now.
I always knew Roger would get a title in 2013 just I had no idea when it would be, I wasn't convinced Halle would be it pre tournament but after the double bagel and beating Haas I knew it was on the cards and it's come at a really good time.
Roger has gone through a lean patch since Cincinnati last year really when you think about it's been a steady drain on his confidence levels combined with some tough losses in the latter stages of tournaments that zap confidence quicker than anything. This all adds up and that winning mentality has left him over recent months, but now he's en route to getting it back and winning here will give him lots of confidence especially when he came from a set down to beat 2 guys who are in form.
For me personally I don't really have any expectations for Wimbledon this year, I've said all along I think the US Open is a better chance just because of what's happened there over recent years. Of course I expect Roger to make the second week but I don't see him defending the title. I am there to watch him for the Third Round this year so he at least has to make it that far 🙂
That's not to say he won't win it however, and the good thing about Roger is that you can never count him out and it only takes one good match for his fans to believe he can do it easily.
I think Halle has definitely increased his chances as he's got that winning feeling back and knows where his level is at. Ok he didn't run through Djokovic or Nadal to win the title but he had to fight to win it and remember what it takes to win. I can't ask for more on that front.
The Trip to Halle
So this was my first time visiting Germany and we stayed in a city just outside Halle called Bielefeld, which you can see in the photo above. A pretty nice place and I'd say a very typical European city – all the usual shops you'd expect on a busy high street and also some older areas that feature more traditional architecture and locally owned shops rather than global chains.
As for Halle I didn't see any of the actual town centre but the tournament itself is a great venue and very well organised. It's very easy to get to, the Gery Weber stadium isn't a monstrosity and is a perfect arena for grass court tennis with a fantastic atmosphere, only bad thing I'd say is the shadows on the court produced from the roof.
All the things within the grounds are very reasonably priced too and Bratwurst + Herforder Pils (locally produced) is a real winner. Well if you like German beer anyway, although they also do a Herforder Grapefruit alcoholic drink that is refreshing and flies down that I'd recommend too.
Like I said above the tickets are very well priced, and seeing two semi finals in a day makes it even better and gives you way more value for money than single session tickets like at the o2.
I also think it's great that the transport costs to the stadium are included in the ticket price for the surrounding areas, so if you're getting a train or a bus from areas in the North Rhine Westphalia like Bielefeld, Gütersloh etc then your train ticket is the Halle ticket. Never seen that and very impressive.
The Germans are renowned for their efficiency and I think that sums up Halle peRFectly so if anyone is considering going next year I'd definitely recommend it and if anyone has any questions on what to do and where to stay I will try help.
After travelling to Rotterdam and not getting to see Roger due to his clown match vs. Benneteau he more than made up for it here and seeing him play on his favourite surface was really good fun. Both matches I saw went to 3 sets which made it all the more worthwhile and I had a great time both .
I've included a few pics below from Bielefeld and Halle, some ok ones of the GOAT but the camera I have isn't spectacular so the quality deteriorates pretty quickly with any form of zooming and of course the obligatory one on Roger Federer Allee.
Onto Wimbledon, where normal blogging service resumes 😀 Allez les suisse!
PS I'll be sorting out the RF hats competition this week, apologies on the delay.