Sunday, May 16, 2021

Federer wins 98th ATP title in Stuttgart ahead of return to No 1


tiamin rice

Switzerland’s Roger Federer returns the ball to Canada’s Milos Raonic during the final match at the ATP Mercedes Cup tennis tournament in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on June 17, 2018. THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

Roger Federer claimed his 98th ATP title on Sunday and displayed his unrivalled superiority on grass with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Milos Raonic in the Stuttgart Cup final.

The top-seeded Swiss beat his Canadian opponent for the 11th time in 14 meetings while winning a first Stuttgart title.

Federer, who will be chasing a ninth Wimbledon triumph next month, finally came good on the German grass on his third attempt after losing a semi-final in 2016 to Dominic Thiem and falling in the first round here a year ago to good friend Tommy Haas.

“I’m just very happy how I played this week,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “I never felt bad on the court, to be honest.

“That’s a very encouraging feeling. In the last couple of days I’ve not dropped serve.

“I was there in the most important moments, breaking Milos (in the first set) was a good effort. It’s been a great week for me.”

The 36-year-old will regain the world number one ranking on Monday and is playing next week as top seed in Halle as he continues his comeback after skipping the clay-court season.

“It’s a great comeback for me,” Federer said after completing his 78-minute win.

“I’m so happy to win this tournament in my third attempt. We’ll see if being number one again will probably give me a boost.”

Federer secured a return to the top ATP ranking for a sixth time with his semi-final victory on Saturday over Australian Nick Kyrgios.

He takes the honour back from Rafael Nadal for the second time this season and continues the duel on court between the two modern icons.

Federer kept tight control on the match as he claimed his third title of the season after the Australian Open and Rotterdam and now owns 18 grass trophies including eight from Wimbledon.

“I think I played very well not having played for a while,” Federer added.

“Maybe I was a bit better on the big points.”

The Swiss broke twice in the first set to take it after 32 minutes when his opponent returned long over the baseline.

The second set stayed on serve into a tiebreaker.

A double fault from the Canadian followed by a return winner from the Swiss set up three match points, with Federer needing only his first as Raonic netted a return.

Federer improved to 21-2 for the season after playing in the 24th grass final of his career.

The 35th-ranked Raonic, a victim of various injuries over recent seasons, was playing a final for the first time in his last 16 tournaments dating to Istanbul last year.

“I’m pleased with how I went about things,” said the Canadian, a former Wimbledon runner-up. “I stayed positive, that’s important after not playing so much (recently).

“I created some opportunities. It’s all incredibly positive, I just hope to keep it going.

“I need more grass matches, I’m maybe hesitating a half a second in making some decisions. I need to make those without hesitation, not overthinking.”But I didn’t do much wrong today.”

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