ATP

Roger Federer: Can the Swiss great repeat his spectacular 2017 comeback next year?

By Sports Desk June 10, 2020

The rest of the 2020 ATP season remains uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing we know for sure is Roger Federer will play no further part.

Federer announced on Wednesday that, having undergone another arthroscopic procedure on his injured knee, he will not play again until 2021.

The 20-time grand slam singles champion said: "Much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 per cent ready to play at my highest level."

That will be music to the ears of Federer fans. After sitting out the second half of 2016 in order to shake off lingering injury concerns, the 38-year-old's comeback heralded one of the most remarkable seasons of his storied career: 54 wins, just five defeats, and seven titles – all in the year he turned 36.

January: Australian Open

Having made his return to action at the Hopman Cup, Federer entered the opening major of the year – and his first since losing the 2016 Wimbledon semi-final to Milos Raonic – seeded only 17th.

He needed four sets to defeat Jurgen Melzer in round one but seemed to find his groove against Noah Rubin and then Tomas Berdych, although defending champion Novak Djokovic's shock defeat to Denis Istomin caught the headlines. Federer was due to face world number one Andy Murray in round four but, when he lost in four sets to Mischa Zverev, the draw suddenly looked wide open.

Federer beat the German and won mammoth contests against Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka en route to a final against Rafael Nadal that nobody had expected. Nadal had won their previous six meetings at majors, but it was Federer who triumphed 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 to claim his first Melbourne crown in seven years and his 18th slam in total.

March: Indian Wells Masters

Federer lost to world number 116 Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai in February but bounced back in style, winning the Indian Wells Masters without dropping a set and defeating Nadal and Wawrinka again along the way.

It was his first title in California since 2012 and set him up for a happy few weeks in the United States.

March/April: Miami Open

Federer's third career Sunshine Double came despite an ominous-looking draw at the Miami Open. Rising star Frances Tiafoe and Juan Martin del Potro fell to straight sets, before Roberto Bautista Agut, Berdych and Nick Kyrgios – all in the top 20 – failed to stop him.

In the final, he beat Nadal for the fourth time in a row and surpassed his own record as the oldest winner of a Masters 1000 event – a record he set weeks earlier and would break again later in the year.

June: Halle Open

Federer skipped the clay season to return refreshed for the grass tournaments, but he lost to veteran Tommy Haas in the round of 16 in Stuttgart.

Order was restored at the Halle Open. He again reached the final without dropping a set and swept aside Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-3 to win the tournament for the ninth time.

July: Wimbledon

Such was Federer's form coming into his favourite slam that it looked unlikely anyone could stop him from winning a record eighth title.

So it proved: the Swiss was nigh-on faultless as he breezed into the final, again without dropping a set, where he beat Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4.

October: Shanghai Masters

August did not quite go to plan for Federer as he lost the final of the Montreal Masters to Alexander Zverez before Del Potro ousted him at the quarter-final stage of the US Open.

Further hard-court success did not elude him for long, though. He won his second Shanghai title in October, gaining revenge on Del Potro in the semi-finals and dispatching Nadal 6-4 6-3 in the final.

October: Swiss Indoors Basel

It was fitting that the last title win of Federer's spectacular comeback year would come on his own turf.

Roared on by the home crowd, Federer had few concerns in reaching a final against Del Potro, which he won 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3.

His eighth Swiss Indoors Basel triumph was the 95th Tour title of his career and ensured 2017 was his most successful season since 2007.

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  • French Open 2020: Halep's birthday joy, Azarenka bemoans cold Parisian weather French Open 2020: Halep's birthday joy, Azarenka bemoans cold Parisian weather

    Birthday girl Simona Halep described her French Open first-round victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo as "the perfect present".

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    And she marked her 29th birthday with a 6-4 6-0 triumph under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

    "The perfect present was that I won, of course," said the 2018 champion. "It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday, so it's going to be pretty unique maybe forever.

    "I cannot celebrate much, because I have to stay in the room, so I will have a bottle of water.

    "I will speak with my very close ones and loved ones. Just that. Nothing special. After the tournament, I will [celebrate properly]."

    While Halep, who now faces compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, had the luxury of an enclosed arena the cold weather outside caused issues for others on a day that saw Venus Williams make an early exit.

    AZA-BRRR-ENKA

    It was a chilly day in the French capital and few people were more bothered by the conditions than Victoria Azarenka, who donned a jacket and leggings for her match with Danka Kovinic. 

    The former world number one triumphed 6-1 6-2 but she left the court three games into the first set claiming it was "too cold", a consequence of the tournament taking place four months later than planned.

    "I think my opponent first of all slipped in the third game, so I think she was also feeling a little bit uncomfortable," said Azarenka.

    "And I just asked like when my grip is getting wet in between points, are we going to still continue to play?

    "And then [the official] told me that if I'm willing to wait a little bit longer while the drizzle stops, because the rain was supposed to increase, and I said absolutely not because I don't see a point of sitting on the court when it's eight degrees.

    "I at the same time asked my opponent if she wants to wait on the court or she wants to go off court, and she said she doesn't want to wait on the court.

    "So, I'm not going to waste my time sitting there and getting cold."

    KONTA DUMPED OUT BY GAUFF

    Coco Gauff dumped out ninth seed Johanna Konta as the 16-year-old produced a fine display.

    Gauff came through in straight sets, beating the Briton 6-3 6-3 to secure a second-round showdown with qualifier Martina Trevisan.

    It constitutes a shock premature departure for Konta, who reached the semi-finals in 2019.

    VENUS DONE WITH 2020

    Venus Williams declaring she is "done" with 2020 is a statement with which many will be able to identify.

    The American veteran, a 2002 finalist at this slam, was beaten 6-4 6-4 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who will now face Azarenka.

    Asked if she had any plays to play again this year, the 40-year-old replied: "I'm going home from here. I'm done. If there is somewhere to play, I won't be there."

    One player who will have at least one more match this year is Eugenie Bouchard, who overcame Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

  • French Open 2020: Murray suffers chastening defeat to Wawrinka on return to Roland Garros French Open 2020: Murray suffers chastening defeat to Wawrinka on return to Roland Garros

    Andy Murray tasted defeat in his first match at the French Open in three years, going down in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka on the opening day of action at Roland Garros.

    Competing in just his third grand slam singles match since the 2019 Australian Open due to hip surgery and the coronavirus pandemic, Murray could not live with the 2015 winner.

    Wawrinka held serve throughout to prevail 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes as he set up a meeting with Dominik Koepfer in the second round.

    Elsewhere on Sunday, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner eliminated 11th seed David Goffin and British number one Dan Evans lost to Kei Nishikori in five sets.


    Lethargic Murray falls at first hurdle

    Grand slam winners Murray and Wawrinka served up a treat when they met in the semi-finals here in 2017, but there was far less drama involved in this latest clash.

    Wildcard entrant Murray lacked any sort of spark and looked subdued for the duration of the one-sided match as he failed to break his opponent's service game.

    Wawrinka, who has himself slipped down the rankings, broke Murray in the third, fifth and seventh games as he eased into a one-set lead.

    It was a similar case in the second set, with the Swiss continuing to dominate and earning an all-important break in the sixth game to leave Murray on the ropes.

    And any hope of a fightback from Murray, as was the case in last month's five-set victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round, were soon ended for good.

    Murray squandered three break points in the second game of the final set and Wawrinka did not look back, seeing out the game with an ace in an easier victory that expected.


    Sinner stuns Goffin 

    Sinner caught the eye when becoming the first Italian to win the Next Gen ATP Finals 10 months ago and he is now making his mark in majors.

    The 19-year-old won 11 games in a row en route to a convincing 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory and will now take on French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in the next round.

    "He maybe didn't feel that well on court," Sinner said in his post-match interview. "I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

     

    Nishikori sees off Evans in five sets 

    British number one Evans was seeking his first win at Roland Garros but, dealt a tough hand against former world number four Nishikori, it was a fourth first-round exit in five years.

    After a sluggish start that saw him drop the first set, Nishikori soon recovered and took a 2-1 lead in the contest, only for Evans to show good fighting spirit in the fourth set.

    Despite battling back from 0-3 in the deciding set, Evans' revival was short-lived as he went down 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in three hours and 49 minutes.

    "The end result was that I lost," Evans said. "I lost another first round which is a little disappointing and now I get ready for the indoor hardcourts."

    Isner sails through, Coric falls

    World number 23 John Isner made light work of Elliot Benchetrit, holding serve throughout in a routine 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Sebastian Korda.

    Borna Coric had less success against Norbert Gombos, though, the 24th seed exiting the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.

    The US Open quarter-finalist lost serve in a gruelling third game and that was a sign of things to come against his stubborn opponent.

    Gombos, who reached round three in 2017, recovered after losing the second set to get over the line and produce a big upset on an eventful opening day in Paris.

  • French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris

    Simona Halep eventually warmed to her French Open task as she won her opening match on a chilly first Sunday at Roland Garros.

    Under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier and on her 29th birthday, title favourite Halep stumbled through the opening stages before pulling away to beat Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4 6-0.

    From 4-2 behind in the opening set, after three consecutive breaks, Halep won 10 straight games to reach the second round of a tournament at which she won her first grand slam title two years ago.

    She landed 90 per cent of first serves in the second set, and struck 11 winners to five from her fading opponent.

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    The second set was a stroll against Sorribes Tormo, a player who had only won one match in three previous main-draw appearances at the clay-court slam.

    Halep's early wobble may have been partly attributable to the unfamiliar conditions, with the temperature barely into double figures as the match began.

    Because the tournament has been moved back from its usual May start amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris will feel quite different to the players in action over the 15-day tournament.

    Romanian Halep paired a pink outfit with black leggings, and initially her tennis was as cold as the autumnal climate, but she predictably took control of matters and rolls on.

    She was serenaded to mark her birthday by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli during a post-match interview, with Halep hoping for more to celebrate in the coming fortnight.

    Data slam: Erratic early, but Halep strengths shine through

    Halep took charge of this contest once she cut down the unforced errors, which blighted her performance in the opening stages. She fired 12 winners in the opening set and 11 in the quickfire second, but the error count told the story of her improvement. After racking up 15 in the first set, Halep trimmed that number to a steadier eight in the second. She was clinical on her break-point opportunities, carving out nine and taking a healthy six of those.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Halep – 23/23
    Sorribes Tormo – 10/16

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Halep – 1/0
    Sorribes Tormo – 0/2

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Halep – 6/9
    Sorribes Tormo – 2/4

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