Halle’s defending champion Roger Federer claimed the 10th title in 2018, beating American qualifier Denis Kudla 7-6, 7-5 in one hour and 27 minutes. Without reaching the final once since 2003, Federer advanced to the title match for the 12th time after the third hard-fought victory that week, his 63rd of 69 meetings in Halle. Federer and Kudla had played only once before this clash at Indian Wells 2012 when Kudla was still a teenager. Six years later, the American did his best to achieve the first win over a great Swiss, pushing him to the limit like Benoit Paire and Matthew Ebden in the previous rounds. Denis missed his serve just once before the semifinal to achieve the best result since Atlanta 2015 and miss the opportunity to win at least one set against the world’s leading player. Competing well below his usual level on grass, Roger repelled six of seven break opportunities to limit damage in his games and outplayed the opponent in the final stages of both sets for the 20th consecutive victory on grass. Kudla had 19 winners and 20 unforced errors, while Federer produced a negative 26-29 ratio, creating just three break opportunities and converting two to prevail in straight sets. The crowd favorite got off to an excellent start, stealing Kudla’s serve in the second game to forge an early lead and suffering a break in the next when his right hand landed at the net. Both served well for the remainder of the set to reach a tiebreaker in which Federer took three mini-breaks and fired a service-winner in the eighth point 7-1 in 40 minutes. Kudla had the lead in the first ten games in set number two and dropped five points on serve while creating no fewer than five break opportunities that could have put him in front. Federer struggled to find his rhythm, throwing a ball into the stands and receiving a code violation before regaining his focus to save two break points in game four and three more at 3-4. Serving well in the remaining two games, Roger took the crucial step at 5-5 when Denis blew two game points and earned a break when the American landed a long forehand for the win in Game 12. Eager to avoid another tiebreaker, Roger landed a winning serve that pushed him to the finish line, securing a spot in the final where he would meet Borna Coric.
Federer was going for broke with almost every shot
In a recent interview with Simon Graf of Tagesanzeigher.ch, player-turned-coach Heinz Gunthardt weighed in on Roger Federer’s run at Wimbledon this year. “Given his preparation, the quarter-final is a good result,” Gunthardt said. “But Wimbledon was not a step forward after Paris. He already had that level there. In Doha and Paris, he played with a completely different mindset, loosely. He clearly said that this was (his) only preparation, that it would only really count in Wimbledon. And then Wimbledon started and he felt the pressure,” he added. Gunthardt believes Federer needs wins against top players like Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev to gain confidence on the big stage once again. “He lacks confidence and that affects his footwork. There is no way around big victories. He hasn’t beaten anyone yet, which gave him the certainty: I can compete with the best again. He still lacks this confirmation. He needs wins against the likes of Medvedev and Zverev,” he added.