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Ricky’s • 10sBalls Picks for the Halle Second Round: Roger Federer vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime

By Ricky Dimon

It will be a clash of generations when Roger Federer and Felix Auger-Aliassime go head-to-head for the first time in their careers in round two of the Noventi Open on Wednesday.

In a draw that has been decimated by early losses (No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev lost his opening match, for example) and withdrawals (such as from No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas), Federer vs. Auger-Aliassime could just as easily pass for a final.

It goes without saying that Auger-Aliassime is glad it isn’t. The 20-year-old Canadian fell to 0-8 lifetime in ATP finals and 0-16 in total sets when he lost to Marin Cilic a few days ago in Stuttgart. The good news, of course, is that he is playing well enough to advance that far. Auger-Aliassime rebounded from a disastrous clay-court swing by winning a trio of Stuttgart matches in straight sets before falling to Cilic. The world No. 21 added another victory when he beat Halle doubles partner Hubert Hurkacz on Tuesday.

Federer kicked off his grass-court season with a 7-6(4), 7-5 defeat of Ilya Ivashka on Monday. The 39-year-old held serve the entire way–saving two break points in the process–and broke in the last game of the match to clinch victory.

It was Federer’s first grass-court appearance since succumbing to Novak Djokovic in an epic 2019 Wimbledon final. It is with an eye toward Wimbledon that the Swiss has been forming his 2021 schedule. He got some valuable match practice under his belt by earning three wins at the French Open, at which point he withdrew prior to a fourth-round date with Matteo Berrettini.

Federer is by no means in the form that carried him to within one point of another triumph at the All-England Club two years ago, but his performance in Paris and also in his Halle opener was encouraging. In what is otherwise a 50-50 match, all the intangibles are in Federer’s favor. As Auger-Aliassime’s finals record suggests, he is often unable to rise to the occasion mentally in big matches. And a first-ever meeting with Federer certainly qualifies as a big match, even in the second round.

Federer may turn in one loose service game at some point that could cost him a set, but he is more likely than Auger-Aliassime to raise his level when it matters most.

Pick: Federer in 3

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