36-year-old Roger Federer skipped the entire European clay-court season, but has returned in preparation for Wimbledon.
The Swiss entered this week’s Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart knowing a run to the final will see him reclaim the world number one ranking from Rafael Nadal (who only held a 100-point lead after winning the French Open), and he’s done so well to be just a step away.
Federer received a bye in the first round and had to wade off a stiff challenge from Germany’s Mischa Zverev in the second round (his first match in 2 months and a half). The Swiss great showed signs of rustiness in the first set against Zverev, but regrouped just well to claim a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory and set up a quarterfinal clash against Guido Pella of Argentina.
In the quarterfinals, Pella just couldn’t match the wit of the 20-time Grand Slam champion as he was beaten 6-4, 6-4. The win was Federer’s 14th in a row on grass-court and it meant he had one more hurdle left. – Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios, who’s making his comeback from an elbow injury, also got a bye in the first round, but had it tough against the sensational Maximilian Marterer of Germany in the second round. He however, prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and labelled the match as “terrible”, saying only his ‘serving’ kept him in.
He then defeated the world no. 24, Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semis where he’ll square off against Federer for their third career meeting. Both players have a win apiece.
Should Federer return to No.1, it would mark the fifth time this season he and Nadal have switched between the No.1 and No.2 spots. The last time the ATP World Tour’s top ranking changed this many times in a season was in 2003, when Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick all enjoyed stints as No.1.
This week, however, is Federer’s only chance to reclaim the top spot during the grass-court season because as the reigning Halle and Wimbledon champion, the Swiss has 2500 points to defend in his other two scheduled grass events, while Nadal has just 180 points.
The semi-final showdown will be played by 3pm WAT on Saturday and the winner will face either Milos Raonic or Lucas Pouille in the final on Sunday.