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ROGER FEDERER OUTDUELS NICK KYRGIOS • REGAINS ATP TENNIS WORLD NO. 1 SPOT

Roger Federer defeats Nick Kyrgios 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-6(5) to reach the @MercedesCup final and guarantee that he will regain the No. 1 ATP Ranking on Monday. – Photo by @ATPWorldTour via Twitter.

 

 

By Richard Pagliario

 

Dotting a sliver of space down the line, Roger Federer landed on top of the world.

 

Federer bunted a backhand pass on match point out-dueling Nick Kyrgios, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (5), in the Stuttgart semifinals, ensuring he will regain the world No. 1 ranking on Monday.

 

Rallying from a mini-break down in the final tie break, Federer registered his 15th consecutive grass-court victory raising his record to 20-2.

 

The victory vaults Federer past rival Rafael Nadal back to the top spot and into his fourth final in five tournaments this season.

 

“I’m very happy, very relieved,” Federer said. “I thought it was the tough match I expected against Nick. We’ve played so many breakers, I’ve started losing count.

 

“I’m happy I got it and happy I got back to world No. 1 and to be back to another final so it’s great news.”

 

The 36-year-old Swiss set a longevity standard becoming the oldest ATP world No. 1 in history on February 19th.

 

The father of two sets of twins turned the day before Father’s Day into a coronation day in another tiebreak tug of war vs. the volatile Kyrgios, who lashed a full-stretch forehand pass to take the mini-break and a 2-0 lead in the final breaker only to see Federer fight back.

 

Eight of the nine sets Federer and Kyrgios have played have escalated into tie breaks.

 

The top-seeded Swiss scored his second win over the talented Aussie in three meetings following his gripping 7-6 (9), 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5) triumph in the 2017 Miami semifinals.

 

Federer fired 12 aces against two double faults and did not face a break point. Keeping his cool during a frenetic final-set breaker, Federer delivered the drama and the top spot with a spirited close.

 

“It feels great,” Federer said of regaining No. 1. “I’m very happy of course. The more so when you play for [No. 1 and] it’s not in a Grand Slam final because then you sort of shove it to the side a little bit. It’s also on the line, but it’s not front and center.

 

“When you do it at a 250 or 500, it feels different. I’m extremely happy. I’m thankful to my team and I feel really good about it, especially getting there at 7-6 in the third adds extra drama to it. So I’m very happy I was able to stay calm and play some good tennis at the very end.”

 

The eight-time Wimbledon champion will play Milos Raonic in tomorrow’s final.

 

The championship match is a rematch of the 2017 Wimbledon quarterfinals, which Federer swept for his 10th win in 13 meetings with the explosive Raonic.

 

The seventh-seeded Canadian cranked 19 aces defeating defending champion Lucas Pouille, 6-4, 7-6 (3), to power into his first final since the 2017 Istanbul title match.

 

Raonic won 32 of 37 first-serve points and stamped five love holds in a 93-minute victory.

 

The 35th-ranked Raonic hammered a big second serve to take a 4-2 tie break lead. When Pouille scattered a backhand wide, Raonic earned triple match point at 6-3. Raonic closed with a sharp serve-and-volley.

 

“I’m happy with the way I played,” said Raonic, who has not dropped a set reaching his 22nd career final. “It was a difficult match.”

 

Raonic is playing for his first title since the 2016 Brisbane when he beat Federer, 6-4, 6-4, in the final.

 

“I look up to [Federer] a lot,” Raonic said. “I gotta come out here and play my best. And hopefully, I’ll play well.”

 

Two imposing servers and shotmakers who don’t dawdle between points combined for attacking tennis at an accelerated pace when Federer faced Kyrgios for the first time on grass.

 

Federer lasered a forehand down the line wrapping his second love hold in three service games for 3-2.

 

Unloading on second serves when he needed to, Kyrgios cracked a second-serve ace sealing a 55-second hold to force the seventh tiebreak in seven sets between the pair.

 

@NickKyrgios wins the final four points of the opening set to take a 7-6(2) lead against Roger Federer in the @MercedesCup semi-finals. – Photo by @ATPWorldTour via Twitter.

The Kyrgios backhand carved out the key mini break.

 

Controlling the center of the court, Kyrgios repeatedly drove his backhand down the line stretching Federer’s forehand side before stepping in and scalding a crosscourt backhand for the mini break and a 3-1 lead.

 

A slick running backhand pick-up gave Kyrgios four set points.

 

He needed only one.

 

Bolting another backhand down the line, Kyrgios closed the 44-minute opener on the strength of 10 aces.

 

Commanding serving at crunch time empowered Kyrgios to a one-set lead, but sporadic serving cost Kyrgios the first break of the match.

 

Losing his concentration, Kyrgios played loose, sloppy points in the seventh game lurching his sixth double fault then slapping a shot into the tape as Federer scored a second break for 5-2.

 

Seeing the lapse in his opponent, Federer slashed through a three-ace game leveling the match after 68 minutes.

 

In the tie break, that stunning full-stretch forehand strike gave Kyrgios a 2-0 lead, but Federer played cleaner when it mattered most.

 

Zapping a diagonal forehand, Federer got the mini-break back for 2-3. Holding a 5-4 lead, Federer pounced on a mid-court forehand, but ballooned his best shot long.

 

Shrugging that surprising lapse off, Federer charged forward for a serve-and-backhand volley winner for match point.

 

Cleverly chipping an angled backhand return, Federer forced Kyrgios to come forward and come up with a slick half volley.

 

The Swiss was waiting for the short reply and nudged his backhand down the line closing a high-octane match in one hour, 51 minutes.

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