Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
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Alexander Zverev is under no illusions of the gravitas of the challenge presented to him in his maiden Halle semi-final.
Having lifted the trophy eight times at the Gerry Weber Stadium, Roger Federer has reached the final four once again, where he will face the youngest player ranked in the top 50.
The world No.3 played a vintage opening set packed with flair, sizzling winners on the run and served with devastating ease as fifth seed David Goffin fell 6-1 behind in just 20 minutes.
"Every opponent causes different problems, some guys serve bigger, some guys return better."
"So, against a guy, whose serve is big, it’s clearly a test of can you break and take charge of the baseline, and I thought I did that probably throughout most of the match until the very end of the match when he got into a better rhythm and I maybe allowed him to maybe get into the service games of mine a bit more", analysed the defending champion.
“But for me to break him three times and one more in the second set is a really good effort and a step up from the previous matches I’ve played on grass this season. I feel a lot better, even explosive, I thought it was my best match this far. So, it is a good win for me and I’m clearly very happy to be in the semis.”
Federer, who has never lost to the Belgian, has described Goffin as one of the best returners currently on Tour and the world No.11 conjured up a stern test in the second set.
Two toe-tapping returns on the baseline provided the catalyst for a 3-2 break lead, an advantage he held onto by going for broke with a collection of rasping passing winners.
A set point dissolved with a costly brace of double faults leaving the door open for Federer and the top seed snatched his chance to force two match points at 6-5 but Goffin was brave at the net, with a tie-break required to settle the set.
The crowd incrementally raised their volume as Goffin saw a further three set points disappear thanks to Federer’s mastery, but the fifth seed also fended off two more match points in a pulsating breaker.
“These grass court matches are tough you know. I saw that last week against Thiem (losing having match points in Stuttgart). You know, having match points or break points, he’s got set points, I mean so many things can happen. It’s one shot here or there, one wrong decision, one right decision by the opponent that can change everything,” added Federer, having secured the tie-break and match 12-10. “So, I’m happy that I fought hard. I pushed maybe luck a bit on my side in that second set and it went my way which it didn’t go my way against Thiem last week.”
Earlier on the Centre Court Zverev displayed his own fighting qualities to edge past the rejuvenated Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets.
The serve was stubborn from either end, with no break points ordering a tie-break. From 3-6 down Zverev in total staved off five set points with clattering serves and an arrowed backhand cross court winner sparking the 11-9 comeback.
“Yes, that was an extremely important sequence because it was also a very heavy set. I think we were both a bit tired afterwards. The level of tennis in the tiebreak was also very high, we played a lot of long rallies,” said the world No.38. “That is quite unusual for a grass court match. I served well, my percentage was quite high, I served a lot of aces in important moments as well.”
Teasing the errors from Baghdatis, the 19-year-old stole an early break to rapidly round off a 7-6(9), 6-3 passage into the semi-finals, which is likely to earn him a seeding at Wimbledon.
Federer managed to catch a glimpse of Zverev’s victory and insisted the teenager has the potential to reach the upper echelons of the game.
“I saw quite a bit today because it’s obvious the best to watch while you’re getting ready yourself. I thought he played well, played a crucial huge first set. But I think today against Baghdatis he showed why he deserves to be in the semis. He’s got a big serve, he’s got a nice backhand, he’s improving his forehand and his moving forward,” reflected Federer.
“I think he’s going to be a tough player in the future, no doubt about it. I think a big tournament like this one here now, playing against really good grass court players like Baghdatis, myself and then, who knows, if he wins even further, it could be a really good week for him moving forward in his career.”
Sadly the clash of close friends Dominic Thiem and Philipp Kohlschreiber was abandoned with the German No.1 citing a hip injury flaring up from Stuttgart last week.
"I am extremely disappointed, I would have liked to play very much", said the 32-year-old, who admitted his chances of making Wimbledon are “in the stars,” as a week break is required before an assessment can be made.
Therefore, Thiem was gifted a free pass into the last four to take on Florian Mayer, having dispatched 2015 Halle finalist Andreas Seppi 7-6(4), 6-3 with an exemplary display.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling right now, I’ve never served so well, I must have hit nearly 20 aces (16), I cannot play better, especially on serve, but I also played a great return game for the break in the second set,” stated the delighted German after progressing to a first Halle semi-final.
“It’s an important win for me, against Seppi who is a tough player on the grass, he’s one of the fastest guys on the Tour but I knew before the match I had a better chance on my favourite surface.”
The world No.192 is adamant he can spring a surprise against the soaring rise of Thiem in Saturday’s match.
“I have nothing to lose. Semi-finals is unbelievable for me but I still want to go one more. Of course he is an unbelievable player, No.4 in the race to London (ATP World Tour Finals), if it was clay I’d be thinking I have no chance but on grass it is all to play for.”