ThrowbackTimes Halle: Roger Federer struggles but tops Denis Kudla

World no. 1 and the defending Halle champion Roger Federer moved a win away from the 10th title in 2018, beating the American qualifier Denis Kudla 7-6, 7-5 in an hour and 27 minutes. Failing to reach 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 from 69 encounters in Halle. Federer and Kudla had played only once before this clash in Indian Wells 2012 when Kudla was still a teenager. Six years later, the American gave his best to notch the first triumph over a great Swiss, pushing him to the limits like Benoit Paire and Matthew Ebden in the previous rounds. Denis got broken only once before the semi-final to achieve the best result since Atlanta 2015 and missing a chance to take at least a set against the world’s leading player.

Roger Federer advanced to his 12th Halle final in 2018 after beating Denis Kudla.

Competing way below his usual level on grass, Roger repelled six out of seven break chances to limit the damage in his games and overpowered the opponent in the closing stages of both sets for the 20th consecutive win on grass. Kudla had 19 winners and 20 unforced errors, while Federer produced a negative 26-29 ratio, creating only three break chances and converting two to prevail in straight sets. The crowd favorite made an excellent start, stealing Kudla’s serve in the second game to forge an early advantage and suffering a break in the next one when his forehand landed in the net.

They both served well in the rest of the set to reach a tie break where Federer grabbed three mini-breaks and fired a service winner in the eighth point for 7-1 in 40 minutes. Kudla had the upper hand in the opening ten games in set number two and dropped five points behind the initial shot while creating no less than five break chances that could have moved him in front. Federer struggled to find his rhythm, slamming one ball to the stands and receiving a code violation before recovering 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 wasted two game points and earned a break when the American sent a forehand long to serve for the victory in game 12. Eager to avoid another tie break, Roger landed a service winner that pushed him over the finish line, securing a place in the final where he would meet Borna Coric.