Roger Federer made a good start to his grass-court season on Monday with a 7-6(4), 7-5 win against Ilya Ivashka in the first round of the NOVENTI OPEN.
“[I] had a tough moment early on in the first set when he had break points, so that was crucial to get out of those,” Federer said in his on-court interview. “And then I played a really good tie-break, which I was happy about. I think as the match went on I started to create more opportunities and started to also calm my nerves a bit.
“Overall I think I served very well. Clearly, I can always be a little bit better, but I’m very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first one.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
The Swiss superstar has made clear that he has been building up for this grass-court season. And in his first match on the surface since 2019, Federer did not lose serve and advanced after one hour and 35 minutes, setting a second-round clash against Felix Auger-Aliassime or Hubert Hurkacz.
“I missed it. I hadn’t played a tournament [on grass] in two years on this surface,” Federer said. “I’ve done the hard courts, I’ve done the clay and now [I am] on the grass. It’s been great being back here in Halle. I love playing here.”
This is the 39-year-old’s fourth tournament of the season following a quarter-final showing in Doha, a second-round loss in Geneva and a run to the fourth round at Roland Garros, where he withdrew before playing Matteo Berrettini.
There was a significant gulf between Federer and Ivashka’s experience on this surface. The Belarusian had previously played four tour-level matches on grass, while the former World No. 1 has won 19 grass-court titles, including 10 in Halle. With his victory, Federer is now 69-7 at this tournament.
Although Ivashka had not had a lot of grass-court experience, he walked on court Monday with confidence. Not only did he qualify for this tournament, but he pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in Barcelona and made the semi-finals in Munich.
The World No. 90 dominated on serve for a large majority of the match and did not face a break point until his 11th service game. Ivashka saved a match point at 4-5 in the second set when he barely squeezed a backhand volley into the net. But Federer did not slip a 0/40 advantage in his next return game. On the Swiss’ fourth match point, Ivashka missed a low forehand approach shot into the net for the only break of the match.
Federer has now won 10 of his past 11 matches at this ATP 500. The 103-time tour-level titlist was not at his flying best, but he was never under threat, winning 77 per cent of his first-serve points and saving the two break points he faced.
“I’m excited to be back on the green grass,” Federer said. “And getting a win is obviously always very nice.
Did You Know?
Federer has advanced to at least the quarter-finals in each of his 17 previous appearances in Halle. The last time he failed to make the semi-finals at this event was in 2001, when he was 19.