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Roger Federer off to Winning Start in Halle, Tsitsipas Withdraws and Medvedev Crashes Out

Roger Federer will face Felix Auger-Aliassime in his Halle round-of-16-match. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

By Ricky Dimon

Roger Federer is off to a winning start on grass in 2021 after he defeated Ilya Ivashka 7-6(4), 7-5 in round one of the Noventi Open on Monday. Federer held serve the entire way–saving two break points in the first set–and finally broke for the first time in the last game of the match to prevail in one hour and 34 minutes.

“It was good,” the 39-year-old assessed. “The first round here in Halle, I always find it is dangerous and it is hard to find any sort of rhythm–especially against a bigger server who takes big cuts at the ball. But I thought I did well, stayed calm, focused, and played well in the tiebreak. As the match went on, I started to get a better feel for his serve and created more opportunities, and felt I was getting there. I am happy to be back on the grass and the goal is to try and win again here.”

Another title would be Federer’s 11th in Halle, where he boasts a 69-7 lifetime match record.

The Swiss is coming off a fourth-round performance at the French Open, where he beat Denis Istomin, Marin Cilic, and Dominik Koepfer before withdrawing prior to a round of 16 match against Matteo Berrettini. It was a precautionary move to preserve his body for a much more important–and potentially successful–grass-court season.

“I feel it is very much a mindset playing on this surface,” Federer explained. “Here in Halle, with the courts protected by the roof, it is slippery and plays fast, so it is always a dangerous tournament to play. I was slipping on the second point so it is different, you can’t move as aggressively as maybe you’d like. It will be interesting to see how the top guys play. I am always excited to see how they handle these early rounds in Halle.”

Daniil Medvedev lost his Halle opener to Jan-Lennard Struff. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES
Top seed Daniil Medvedev did not handle it well on Tuesday. The Russian faced a tough draw in the form of Jan-Lennard Struff and lost to the big-serving German 7-6(6), 6-3.

Five of the eight seeds are already out of the tournament, including No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas. After finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the French Open this past Sunday, Tsitsipas unsurprisingly withdrew. In addition to Medvedev, Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, and Gael Monfils have already lost.

That doesn’t mean Federer’s draw is suddenly an easy one; far from it. The 20-time Grand Slam champion will meet Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16.Win or lose, it will be another step for Federer toward the ultimate goal of Wimbledon–which is less than two weeks away.

“The season starts around now but I have been focused this week, recovering from Paris,” he said. “My Wimbledon goals are high, they have to be high, or I wouldn’t be playing, and anything I get here in terms of matches is positive for Wimbledon.”

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editors Note • not confirmed • But we heard the Tsistipas   was informed prior to the French finals that his grandmother had passed away …