Incredibly, Rafael Nadal has won three tournaments at least 10 times apiece (Barcelona, Monte-Carlo and Roland Garros). Roger Federer feels awfully left out on this score – but has the chance to claim a 10th Halle title this coming week.
The (still improving?) 37-year-old could have claimed ‘Die Zehnte’ last summer, but Borna Coric spoiled his plans in the final, taking it in three sets to win his first ATP 500 event.
Coric is in the draw again this year along with the struggling Sascha Zverev and the rising Karen Khachanov. Federer will be somewhat relieved by the absence of Dominic Thiem, who withdrew before the draw, citing exhaustion.
Now that would have been a final pairing to savour!
While Rafa owns a number of silly statistics on clay, Federer can lay claim to some fancy ones on the turf. Eight times a Wimbledon champion, the world no.3 has a commanding 176-26 record on grass throughout his career. That’s an 87% winning ratio which is pretty good really.
Federer will be delighted with his clay court campaign as he secured a sufficient amount of wins to build confidence, and didn’t pick up a niggling injury. Upon arrival at Halle, he reassured the press and frightened the draw. “I am fit, have rested enough, I have no physical problems.”
The maestro has a tricky enough start with John Millman who notoriously beat him from a set down at last year’s US Open. He’ll probably get Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round and the defending champion, Coric, in the last four.
Still just 22, the Croatian seems to have been around the tour for ages. 12 months ago, Coric won his biggest title to date at Halle and went on to make a first Masters 1000 final in Shanghai.
He has continued the excellent progress in 2019 with deep runs at the Australian Open, Dubai, Miami, Monte-Carlo and Budapest. Coric will also come to Germany with confidence on the grass as he is into at least the last four of s-Hertogenbosch.
The world no.14 will start against clay courter Jaume Munar and should only fear Gael Monfils or Pierre Hugues-Herbert in his quarter. So long as fatigue from back-to-back weeks doesn’t set in, expect a semi-final showdown with Mr. Federer.
German players have tended to do well at Halle with Florian Mayer, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas all champions in the last decade. Big-serving Struff may not have the tools to join that club but he’s playing well enough to make a dent in the draw.
The 29-year-old is at a career high ranking of 38 after excellent performances at Auckland, Indian Wells and Roland Garros. Struff has already beaten Sascha Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marin Cilic and Coric this season so he likes the big occasion. He also just made the last four in Stuttgart so comes home with some grass court wins. The Borussia Dortmund fan can take advantage of a quarter that has Karen Khachanov and Nikoloz Basilashvili seeded.
Here’s another man at a career high and with some grass court form. The 23-year-old Roman broke into the top 100 in March 2018 and has progressed nicely in the time since. Berrettini is now at a ranking of 30 after winning his first ATP 250 title two months ago in Budapest. The Italian is also into the final of Stuttgart after beating Nick Kyrgios, Khachanov and Struff in a week.
He’ll either come to Halle full of beans or desperate for a rest. Either way, he should be encouraged by a draw that sees him in the same open quarter as Struff.