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Curious Halle Semifinals

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Gerry Weber Open’s illustrious history is more than having Roger Federer as the face of the tournament. True, he has won more titles in Halle, Germany than any other performer, and his totals – eight championships and three final round appearances – are significant, but the ATP Tour 500 series event is more than the victory numbers of the legendary Swiss talent.

 

Borrowing from Lewis Carroll’s, intriguing fantasy “Alice in Wonderland”, in which she exclaimed, “curiouser and curiouser”, today’s story will provide a look-back sample of the “curious” taken from twenty-four years of semifinal play.

In 1995, Michael Stich of Germany defeated Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands, 7-6, 6-1 in one of the last four contests. Marc Rosset of Switzerland edged Jacco Eltingh, also from the Netherlands, 7-6, 7-5 in the other. Eltingh and Haarhuis, long-time pals and at one time, No. 1 in ATP doubles, were the first and only countrymen to lose in the singles semifinals, but go on to win the doubles. They downed Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Olhovsky of Russia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

Kafelnikov’s debut singles semifinal was a 7-6, 7-6 loss to Magnus Larsson of Sweden, in 1994. Two years later, he slipped past his doubles partner, Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, but for the second straight year the doubles championship evaded his grasp, as he and Vacek were defeated, 6-1, 7-5, by Byron Black of Zimbabwe and Grant Connell of Canada in the trophy round.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

In 1997 and ’98, Kafelnikov continued his Halle roll. He was 6-3, 6-4 better than Boris Becker, who was the face of German tennis in those days. Twelve-months later, he survived a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 encounter with Thomas Johansson of Sweden.

Johansson put a speed bump in his path with a 2001, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 reversal of their previous result. The next year (2002), Kafelnikov responded to the defeat by scoring a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 decision over Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

Though Nicolas Kiefer of Germany surprised Federer, in the 2002 semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, the music was changing.  From 2003 until ’06, the choir was united singing “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger” as he proved to be better than Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2; Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4; Tommy Haas of Germany, 6-4, 7-6; and Haas again, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. He returned to the hit parade with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kiefer in 2008. He stopped Philipp Petzschner of Germany, 7-6, 6-4, in 2010, and scored another victory over Youzhny, 6-1, 6-4 in 2012. Against Haas, in the 2013 event, he won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the next two years, Federer sidelined Kai Nishikori of Japan, 6-3, 7-6 and Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 7-6, 7-6. In 2016, NextGen flag bearer Alexander Zverev of Germany altered the harmony defeating Federer, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.

“Curiouser and curiouser…”

ATP Tour tennis, for the most part, plays to form. But, from time to time, unexpected results have occurred. Usually, a competitor whose game is more suited to clay has an “on” week. Some of Halle’s surprise semifinalists have included: Carlos Moya of Spain who was defeated by Nicklas Kulti of Sweden, 6-3, 6-4 in 1999; Arnaud Clement of France who Kiefer edged 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in 2003; Guillermo Canas of Argentina who Marat Safin of Russia dispatched, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in 2005; and Kristof Vliegen of Belgium who was downed 6-3, 6-2 by Tomáš Berdych of the Czech Republic in 2006.

As things turned out, Saturday’s semifinals were not disrupted by “Curiouser and curiouser” elements. Federer, the No. 1 seed, eliminated Russian Karen Khachanov, who is a member of the NextGen class, 6-4, 7-6. Zverev, the No. 4 seed, eliminated Richard Gasquet of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The results set up a reality fairytale that will be matching Roger Federer, who “is” the Gerry Weber Open, against Alexander Zverev, who “is what Halle will become”. And it is a sure thing that there will be nothing curious about the outcome.

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Roger Federer Overcomes Fucsovics To Reach 57th Grand Slam Quarter-Final

Roger Federer came back from a set down to defeat Marton Fucsovics and reach his 57th grand slam quarter-final.

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Roger Federer (@atptour - Twitter)

Roger Federer reached his 57th grand slam quarter-final with a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory over Marton Fucsovics. 

 

The Swiss maestro overcame tough conditions and a rusty opening set to reach the Australian Open last eight with a four set victory.

It now means Federer will play his 15th Australian Open quarter-final and his 57th grand slam last eight when he plays world number 100 Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

After an epic match with John Millman a couple of days ago, Federer was hoping that victory would give him confidence against an in-form Marton Fucsovics.

There were some confident moments to start the match as Federer struck the ball cleanly off both wings as he looked for a fast start.

But Fucsovics was also hitting the ball well, creating wide angles to make life difficult for the 20-time grand slam champion.

Eventually it was the Swiss maestro who would blink first as a poor game full of unforced errors and poor decision-making handed the early break to the Hungarian.

Fucsovics kept his cool and continued to play with bold as well as brave tennis to hold his nerve and seal the opening set in 37 minutes.

However the first set was the only set where Fucsovics played anywhere near his best tennis as Federer stepped up a gear for the rest of the match.

Using good variety, Federer settled into a rythym as the winners flowed from his racket as the Hungarian started to fade especially on serve.

Two breaks of serve was needed in the second set as he blasted his way to the second set, 6-1.

Another masterclass was handed out in the third set although not without struggled as Fucsovics capitalised on Federer inconsistency to break late in the set.

Although by that point Fucsovics was two breaks down when he broke and Federer broke him back anyway as he shortened the points up at the net as the 3rd seed took a two sets to one lead.

In a match lacking in quality, it was Federer who proved to be the more ruthless and clinical player as he took advantage of a lethargic Fucsovics.

Another two breaks of serve sealed a spot in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for a 15th time in his career. Next up will be world number 100 Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday.

After the match, Federer admitted the conditions were tough to play in, “Was a tough start,” Federer said in his post-match interview.

“I thought that Marton played clean. It was the rest of the Millman match, he gave me a beatdown from the baseline, so maybe took my confidence away a little bit, and it just took some time.

It’s really slow in the night time especially when it’s cool like this. I had to figure it out, finally found a way at the start of the second set and from there, things got a little bit easier.”

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Alexander Zverev Cruises Past Verdasco To Set Last 16 Clash With Rublev

Alexander Zverev is into the last 16 of the Australian Open after a comfortable victory over Fernando Verdasco.

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Alexander Zverev (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev cruised into the last 16 after a 6-2 6-2 6-4 win over Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open.

 

The German dominated from start to finish as he served 15 aces to blast past Verdasco and reach the last 16 without dropping a set.

Next for Zverev will be Andrey Rublev after the Russian won his 15th consecutive match to edge past David Goffin in four sets.

It was a strong start from Zverev, who uncharacteristically had not needed five sets so far and had preserved a lot of energy.

Although he had struggled against Verdasco in the past, he served well and struck the ball cleanly as he took a 4-0 early advantage.

As for the Spaniard, he was clearly struggling to find any rhythm as he hit 10 unforced errors as well as creating only one break point.

The first set was sealed in 36 minutes and the second set was heading in a similar direction as Verdasco looked lethargic.

Another early break was sealed for the 7th seed as the unforced error count continued to mount for the Spaniard as Zverev created four break points during the set.

Some good use of the angles helped Zverev get another break towards the end of the set as his movement was also looking very good this week.

A 2 set lead was restored for Zverev as he looked to be in control but Verdasco was capable of comebacks before and he made a good start to the third set.

Some more aggressive and accurate play saw him finally take the match to the German and test his opponent’s defensive skills.

There were a few more errors than usual from Zverev as Verdasco upped the intensity and varied the pace of the ball to capitalise and get his first break of the match for a 4-2 lead.

However that wave of momentum didn’t last long for the Spaniard as the German showed good pace from defensive positions.

This allowed him to assume control of the match again and a run of four consecutive games sealed the match as well as a place in the last 16.

A highly impressive first week from Zverev sees him not drop a set so far after looking so underwhelming at the ATP Cup.

Next for Zverev is Andrey Rublev who won his 15th consecutive match to seal a 2-6 7-6(3) 6-4 7-6(4) win over David Goffin.

The Russian hit 19 less unforced errors than his Belgian opponent as he continued his hot-streak and will provide a stern test for Zverev on Monday.

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Simona Halep Unfazed By Big Name Exits Ahead Of Australian Open Second Week

Simona Halep remains focused on her own Australian Open campaign despite many big name exits.

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Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Simona Halep remains unfazed by early exits of the big seeds as she approaches the second week of the Australian Open.

 

Many big names have failed to make the second week with the likes of defending champion Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova crashing out before the fourth round.

However one name that still remains heading into the last 16 in Melbourne is Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who produced a clean performance to dismiss Yulia Putintseva 6-1 6-4.

Hitting 26 winners, Halep easily progressed into the last 16 as she aims for a third grand slam title of her career following victories in Paris and London.

Despite being the biggest seed left in her half of the draw, Halep has remained focused even amongst the exodus of the big names, “Well, I’m not focusing on others, as you know,” the Romanian told the press.

“I know at this level everything can happen, so that’s why sometimes I’m a little bit stressed, sometimes I’m relaxed, because everything can happen.

It’s just a tournament, and I’m sure that for you guys it’s a little bit of shock when the top-10 players are losing, but it’s life and we cannot be 100% every day. So we go ahead, and if I’m still in the tournament, it’s a good thing.”

Even though the fourth seed won’t admit it, now is a big chance for Halep to make her second Australian Open final with many big names from her half crashing out.

Next for Halep is 16th seeded Elise Mertens, who defeated Cici Bellis 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0, and the Romanian knows the threat that she poses, “She has a good game, like she plays fast, close to the baseline. We played many times, so it’s enough to know how she’s playing and what I have to do against her.”

As Halep approaches the second week, the Wimbledon champion also told the media that she feels more relaxed heading into the latter stages of slams, So maybe I relaxed a little bit more. And I don’t see that these tournaments very high that I cannot touch them,” Halep said about the possibility of winning grand slams.

So I feel more confident, and I feel that actually I know that it’s really tough to get match by match and to win seven matches, but I know it’s possible.”

The Romanian’s next match will be on Monday.

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