ATP Halle: Federer starts quest for ninth title, Nishikori pulls out with injury

Swiss legend Roger Federer featured for the first time at the 2016 Gerry Weber Open, needing only 73 minutes to see off the challenge of Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets. Earlier in the day, the second seed Kei Nishikori withdrew from the event citing a rib injury as the problem, with Florian Mayer benefitting from the withdrawal advancing to the last eight. Dominic Thiem won the final match of the day over Joao Sousa, to record his 14th win in his last 15 matches.                                         

Federer successfully begins his title defence

Federer faces Jaziri next after seeing off Struff (Photo: Getty Images/Daniel Kopatsch)
Federer faces Jaziri next after seeing off Struff (Photo: Getty Images/Daniel Kopatsch)

Federer arrives in Halle looking to win his fourth consecutive title at one of his favourite events, but met big-serving Struff for the first time in the encounter dubbed ‘the match of the day’. Federer took a while to get settled but looked comfortable enough on his serve to win in straight sets.

Neither player threatened to break in the early stages of the first round encounter, with both securing love holds to find themselves deadlocked at 3-3. Struff saved the first break point of the match in the following game but was unable to prevent another one from being seized upon and hit long when trying to force the issue. His illustrious opponent needed no other opportunities, losing only two points in as many service games to clinch the first set 6-4.

The second set was as equally dominated by serve, with both player’s first serving percentage increasing by a good standard. Break points were at a premium, and a tiebreaker was needed to settle the set after Federer had failed to convert either of his break chances at 4-4. The 34-year-old had won all the points on his first serve in the set, and the pressured told when he took a mini-break lead to go up 3-0. He secured another mini-break to set up match point, but Struff held on until Federer clinched the 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory at the second time of asking.

Thiem continues his strong form

Thiem continues his fine form of the past few weeks (Photo: Getty Images/Carmen Jaspersen)
Thiem continues his fine form of the past few weeks (Photo: Getty Images/Carmen Jaspersen)

22-year-old Thiem continued his fine recent form by defeating Joao Sousa 7-5, 6-4 in the final match to be played on Stadion. Just the one break in either set was enough for the Austrian to win his fifth match in a row on grass, a surface which he is only now showing some potential on.

Neither player could create a break point on return early on, so when Sousa served at 5-5, a tiebreaker looked likely to determine who would take a set advantage. Thiem had other ideas, though, breaking to 15 on the first break point which appeared for either player. He then held to love to win his sixth consecutive set over the Portuguese man in their last three meetings.

Any hopes the world number 30 had of recording just a second victory over the 22-year-old were dashed when he failed to convert his first break chance of the match in his first return game of the following set. He saved one on his own delivery three games later to hold for 3-2. He found himself serving at 40-0 up at 4-4, but found a way to be broken for the second time in the match, and crucially a break which would decide the outcome despite initially saving two match points when returning in the final game of the match.

Sousa was serving at a high 67 percent throughout the match, but his lack of power rarely troubled Thiem who won the important points at the crucial ends of both sets to continue his impressive winning streak.

Other day three results

The only seed to depart from Halle on day three was second seed Nishikori, who felt his rib injury which he sustained during his first round match against Lucas Pouille was too risky to play with, allowing Florian Mayer a free route into the last eight. Another two Germans also progressed alongside Mayer, as first Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Marcel Granollers 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the opening match of the day, before Alexander Zverev ended another home favourite’s chances, as Benjamin Becker retired after trailing by a set and a break. No such luck for Dustin Brown, however, as he lost out to Marcos Baghdatis 7-5, 7-6 (8) in an entertaining match on court one. Elsewhere, there were wins for Andreas Seppi over Yuichi Sugita of Japan and Teymuraz Gabashvili over Paolo Lorenzi.

The Bryan brothers progressed to the semifinals in the doubles event, breezing past Granollers and Tomas Berdych in just under an hour to book their place in the last four.

Day four preview

Kohlschreiber faces a tricky test against Karlovic tomorrow (Photo: Getty Images/Carmen Jaspersen)
Kohlschreiber faces a tricky test against Karlovic tomorrow (Photo: Getty Images/Carmen Jaspersen)

Federer and Thiem are both back in action on a slightly quieter day four order of play, with only four singles matches scheduled to take place. Federer faces Malek Jaziri for the second time before Thiem clashes with Gabashvili to bring the play to an end on Stadion. Kohlschreiber opens again, but this time against huge-serving Ivo Karlovic, whilst Sergiy Stakhovsky will be aiming to defeat David Goffin at the third time of asking.

The final three semifinal places in the doubles will also be decided tomorrow, with seeds two to four in action on court one.

Day four order of play

Stadion – 12:00pm

(8) Philipp Kohlschreiber - Ivo Karlovic

Sergiy Stakhovsky - David Goffin (5)

(1)Roger Federer - Malek Jaziri

NOT BEFORE 5:30pm

Teymuraz Gabashvili - Dominic Thiem (3)

Court One – 12:00pm

Brian Baker / Denis Istomin - Lukasz Kubot / Alexander Peya (2)

(3) Raven Klaasen / Rajeev Ram - Alexander Zverev / Mischa Zverev

Juan Sebastian Cabal / Robert Farah - Henri Kontinen / John Peers (4)

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