When one has won the same tournament nine-times before, the tenth title just seems one step away. But tennis isn’t that easy. Even when one’s name is Roger Federer, the nine-times winner in Halle. Last year he surprisingly lost to the young Croatian player Borna Coric in the final. This time he already struggled in his opening match.
But the Maestro from Switzerland didn’t stumble in his opener of the grass season against Australian John Millman. Yes, the Millman who, in the French Open, had sent the perhaps best tennis player of all time home in four sets. Federer was warned: “If you are kicked out of a Grand Slam by someone, then you know what he can do.” And so he tried to order things from the start at the Gerry Weber Stadion. Again and again he tried to get his forehand-cracker through. But the Maestro didn’t find the right measure. Mistakes were made: too long, too low, too far left. And Millman played well. Serve solidly, didn’t allow a break point. But at 37 years of age and 101 tournament victories on your side someone like Federer still stays calm and awaits his chance and measure. In the tie-break of the first set he found both: 7:1.
In the second round the 20-times winner at Grand Slam tournaments got into the match better, a break in the sixth game brought it to 6:3 in the end. The fans in the packed Stadium cheered: their favourite, who really belongs to the tournament in Halle, is through to the round of 16.
Sometimes they are like that, the first rounds on grass. Or as the Maestro puts it: the main thing is, to have won – everything else is not so important in the first round.
The next opponent is Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The two have only played once against one another on grass. That was in Wimbledon 2011 and Tsonga won after falling behind 0:2 in five. Federer didn’t have a break point left in the first set then. “He served inhumanly, always playing the combination serve-forehand. That was impressive” the Swiss said. In Miami he has just trained with the Frenchman. “It’s not an easy draw for a round of 16.”