What an exciting semifinal at this year’s MercedesCup in Stuttgart: Roger Federer, the number 1 of the tournament, battled hard against a at times brilliantly playing Nick Kyrgios (AUS/4) to finally take the match in three sets and retain the number 1 spot in the ATP tour rankings. “It feels different than in Rotterdam, where everything was just about that one topic. This week was more relaxed. If it happened that’s nice, if not it also wouldn’t have been the end of the world.”
But happen it did and in what an exciting fashion to boot. Nick Kyrgios also played a good part in that as he played eye-to-eye with the “Maestro” over vast parts of the match. Until now they had played two matches against each other, both going the distance with all six sets decided in the tie-break. So it was no wonder that the first set in Stuttgart also had to be decided in the tie-break, as Federer wasn’t able to convert any of his two break points before. In the tiebreak, Kyrgios was untouchable, with only 2 points for Federer.
The second set finally saw a premiere between the two opponents as it was the first set that would not reach the tiebreak. Kyrgios lost some of momentum and like a predator Federer pounced on his chance, breaking Kyrgios’ serve twice to take the set 6-2. In the final set both players were untouchable and thus, once again the tiebreak had to decide the winner. This time, it was Federer who came out victorious taking the match 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-6(5), who will return to the top of the ATP rankings next Monday.
Federer’s relief was obvious during his interview on the Center Court after the win: “Naturally, I’m very happy to be back at number 1, especially after such a high-class match against Nick Kyrgios. But I’d rather not play five set matches against Nick because they would last too long and we would probably both grow beards before the end.” Federer only had the highest of praises for Kyrgios: “I’m a fan, really. He plays very relaxed, just like me when I was young.” Getting laughs from the crowd he added: “Fortunately I changed then, so I could become really successful. But it’s good to have guys like him on the tour.”
Raonic eliminates defending champion Pouille
In the finals, Federer will face Milos Raonic. The no. 7 seeded Canadian keeps on marching through the tournament without ever having to drop a service game. In the semifinals he eliminated French defending champion Lucas Pouille (2) in straight sets.
Raonic only needed on break in the middle of the first set to win it 6-4. On serve, Raonic was nearly untouchable. Only when it came to serving out the set, the Canadian faced a break point which he was able to save (overall it was only the third break point against Raonic in the tournament). In the second set both players were able to hold their serve, with Pouille just barely getting by to win his to make it 4-3 after saving two break points. In the tiebreak the raw service power of Raonic was just too much for the defending champion. Final result: 6-4, 7-6(3) for Raonic who thus continues his impressive comeback after a lengthy break because of an elbow injury.
Still, Raonic isn’t a hundred percent happy with his game yet: “I think I’m not playing at my peak yet, but today definitely was a step in the right direction. I can’t complain. I’m progressing from match to match and that’s very positive.”
For the crowd and the MercedesCup, the tall Canadian only has praise: “The atmosphere is great, so it’s a lot of fun to play here. The fans love tennis and they are very knowledgeable. Everything is full, even the practice courts.”