Roger Federer often makes tennis look easy. But even the Swiss star found himself in a ‘Goldilocks’ situation during his 7-6(1), 6-3 victory against John Millman in the first round of the NOVENTI OPEN on Tuesday.
“I am aware that there were way too many errors there. I’ve got to find the right sort of power on the forehand,” Federer said. “Not too soft, not too hard. I’ve got to find the middle ground.”
Federer One Step Closer To 10th Halle Title
Federer made an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors off the forehand wing during his first match of the grass-court season. And the 37-year-old knows he’ll need to make adjustments to the relatively lower bounce on this surface compared to when he was competing on clay.
“I was looking for it throughout [with] different balls [compared] to the past few weeks in Paris,” Federer said. “Grass plays different, how much spin I need to put on the ball, how flat I need to go through the ball. So I often played maybe a little bit on the aggressive side in the beginning because I always knew I can pull back a little bit. So of course that shot can only get better. It can’t get worse. There is a level I believe I have on my forehand.”
To be fair to the nine-time Halle champion, he did not play poorly against Millman, who defeated him at last year’s US Open. Federer won 90 per cent (38/42) of his first-serve points and saved the only break point he faced. In the first-set tie-break, the top seed dropped just one point to take command of the match.
“There were definitely some good moments there,” Federer said. “From the baseline all that stuff is only going to get better from here on. So I’m confident there.”
The grass-court season is different than it has been for the past few years for Federer, who competed at the MercedesCup from 2016-18, as he did not play Roland Garros. But after returning to clay for the first time since 2016, Federer is playing a slightly different schedule on grass.
“This is my first match back on the grass. It used to always be here in Halle, my first rounds. It was like back in the days. I always think any way you get through is a good way because the next match will always feel different or better and all that stuff,” Federer said. “Plus I think with this fact of John having beaten me at the US Open, I knew it was going to be tough. So thankfully I wasn’t too nervous.”
Federer now has a 64-7 record in Halle, and he will try to reach his 17th quarter-final at the ATP 500 tournament when he faces former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next.
The Frenchman has won their past two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, at 2016 Monte-Carlo and 2014 Canada. But Federer leads their rivalry 11-6, and he has never failed to advance to the last eight at this event.