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Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during his semi final match against Denis Kudla from the USA at the ATP Tennis Tournament Gerry Weber Open in Halle Westphalia, Germany, 23 June 2018. EPA-EFE/SASCHA STEINBACH



By Ricky Dimon


Roger Federer has by no means been at his best this week at the Gerry Weber Open, but he still had enough to reach the final. Federer survived another competitive contest on Saturday, beating Denis Kulda 7-6(1), 7-5 during semifinal action to set up a showdown for the title against Borna Coric.


The 36-year-old kicked off his Halle campaign by beating Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4, but things became difficult thereafter. Federer fought off two match points in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7) win over Benoit Paire, and beat Matthew Ebden 7-6(2), 7-5 in the quarters. A similar story transpired with Kudla, who dropped serve early in the opening set but broke back immediately and went toe-to-toe with his heavily-favored opponent the entire rest of the way.


After getting steamrolled in the first-set tiebreaker, Kudla generated two break chances early in the second and even put Federer in a 0-40 hole with the Swiss serving at 3-4. But Federer managed to hold and eventually broke the American at 5-5 before finishing it off one game later.


“I’m very happy,” the top seed noted. “Like yesterday against Ebden, against Kudla also it was similar. It was tough. I couldn’t quite keep the break going that I got in the first game. I gotta do better there. I can’t be getting [broken] like this. I played a great tiebreaker; went up 6-0 very quickly. (In the) second set I had to battle; I was down 0-40 in one game.


“Honestly I am expecting ‘breakers at the moment. The good things is I have a tremendous record here in tiebreakers. I’m very confident when I go into the tiebreaker…. Credit to him to get back and then serve well for most of the match, and me too. We didn’t see any more breaks until basically the very end in the second to last game.”


Coric advanced to the title match when he got a first-set retirement from Roberto Bautista Agut, who suffered a nasty fall and called it quits while leading 3-2 on serve.


Thus continues a perfect run through Halle for Coric, who did not drop a set in defeats of Alexander Zverev, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Andreas Seppi. Now the Croat faces Federer, who leads the head-to-head series 2-0 following victories at the 2015 Dubai event (6-2, 6-1) and earlier this year in Indian Wells (5-7, 6-4, 6-4).


Will Federer be able to raise his level for when it matters most?


“(I’m) playing a lot of matches right now, so I think I’m missing practice a little bit,” he explained. “But it’s okay. It’s the first time I’m in back-to-back grass-court tournament finals I’m actually very happy. I’m just hoping to play another good match tomorrow. The finals are always where I want to play my best and this is where I’m going to judge my performance at the very end. Then I got time to rest next week and practice, as well, and get really ready for Wimbledon.”


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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