Federer Moves A Step Closer In Rotterdam

Swiss star overcomes Kohlschreiber for 13th time

February 15, 2018
Roger Federer fights his way into form on Thursday night in a gritty second-round encounter over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Henk Koster
Roger Federer fights his way into form on Thursday night in a gritty second-round encounter over Philipp Kohlschreiber. By ATP Staff

Roger Federer’s seemingly routine pathway to reclaim the No. 1 ATP Ranking at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament got a little more challenging than expected Thursday night in Rotterdam.

Before his second-round clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Federer’s two-step process seemed straight forward: Extend his perfect record against Kohlschreiber to 13-0 and then take down either Robin Haase or fellow Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor in Friday’s quarter-finals.

But Federer had to fight off two set points in the first-set tie-break and endure a competitive second set to beat Kohlschreiber 7-6(8), 7-5 in one hour and 42 minutes.

“It was extremely complicated tonight,” Federer said. “I couldn’t find my range or my rhythm. I think Philipp did that to me; it was a struggle. Today when the score was close, I couldn’t release my shots. So it was a battle... It was quite the relief at the end.”

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Federer admitted to thinking at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break that he would need three sets to keep alive his No. 1 hopes. "I was preparing for the second set, being down one set. I don’t care how positive a person you are. You just see negativity flying all around you, I am down 4/6, I messed up, I should have done this, I should have done that. I’m at the mercy of my opponent. It’s a bad feeling, but when you do come back and snatch the set, it’s such a key moment in the match and I was able to utilise that.”

The Swiss superstar must now defeat Dutchman Robin Haase, who beat Griekspoor 6-4, 6-0 in the final match of the day, to return to the summit of men’s professional tennis for the first time in more than five years and become the oldest player to rank No. 1.

On the only break point of the first set, a set point for Federer, with Kohlschreiber serving at 5-6, 30/40, the Swiss missed a passing shot. Kohlschreiber grew in confidence taking a 5/2 lead in the tie-break, and held two set point opportunities at 6/4 - including one on his serve. However, Federer regrouped with set point chances at 7/6, 8/7 and 9/8, finally converting his fourth chance with a crosscourt forehand winner.

Kohlschreiber fought off three break points at 1-1, but at 5-5 the German hit the first double fault of the match to hand Federer another break point. Kohlschreiber responded in aggressive fashion, punching away a volley to get back to deuce. But the pressure began to tell. A second double fault gave Federer the crucial break.

Federer captured his 20th Grand Slam championship crown at last month’s Australian Open (d. Cilic) for the 96th tour-level trophy of his career.

Did You Know?
If Federer wins Friday's quarter-final to guarantee his return to World No. 1, Monday will mark more than 14 years since the Swiss first claimed the top ATP Ranking on 2 February, 2004. He would also become the oldest No. 1 at 36 (topping 33-year-old Andre Agassi) and set a record for the most time elapsed (more than five years) to return to No. 1 since the last time he held top spot (4 October, 2012).

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