Over the past couple of days, the Gerry Weber Open was largely lucky when it came to avoiding rainfall and interruption of play — but as expected, Friday saw the roof of the main stadium closed. Under its watchful eye, the first two matches provided plenty of entertainment.
Starting off today’s schedule of play, Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych contested a serve-dominated match that everyone expected. The first set looked to be headed into a tiebreak, until the Czech’s focus — and serve –wavered and he lost the opener on a double fault. The big-serving Croat had a shot at finishing off the match in straight sets but Berdych prevailed in the second set tiebreak despite dropping a 4-1* lead and facing match point.
In the decider, Karlovic broke his opponent’s serve for the second time and continued to hold all the way into the semifinals. En route, the 36-year-old set a new ATP record for aces out on Halle’s Centre Court, hitting 45 in total.
“I was surprised when I was told on court after the match how many aces I hit,” Karlovic said. “I didn’t know it was that many. Hopefully I can continue like that in the semifinal.”
In the second match of the day, Kei Nishikori had his hands full against Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz. Although Nishikori started off the match successfully, taking the first set in convincing fashion, he found himself in bigger trouble as the match went on.
“I think I lost some concentration in the second set, especially in a couple of my service games,” Nishikori said. “Even at five-all I was rushed a little bit and missed a couple of easy forehands and that I shouldn’t do, especially at important points. I think finally in the third set I started to concentrate again and I started hitting more. That’s why I was able to dictate a little more than in the second set. It wasn’t easy to stay focused all the time, but I think I fought through a good game today.”
Particularly late in the second set and early in the third set, Janowicz made life difficult for his opponent but as the decider progressed his shot selection let him down in crucial moments as the Nishikori’s level started to pick up again.
In one of the most anticipated matches of the day for the local contingent, Roger Federer took on the last German standing, Florian Mayer. During the first set, it looked as though the encounter was going to be a quick one as the Swiss was in a hurry to dish out a bagel. The German admitted he feared he’d face a similar fate as compatriot Mischa Zverev who found himself on the receiving end of a 39-minute double bagel against Federer in Halle in 2013.
“Yeah, I had to think of [Zverev] two years ago,” Mayer said with a chuckle. “If I hadn’t won the first game of the second set, things could’ve gone the same way with the way I was playing.”
“I served pretty well in the second set,” he said. “I got better into his service games but I thought he was very precise and solid with his serve throughout the match. Of course, you’re always a little disappointed when you lose but I know that I played pretty much to my abilities in the second set, and that’s okay.”
In the second set, the 31-year-old pushed Federer all the way into the tiebreak but the World No. 2 was too solid during the final eight points of the match.
“Today I was in good form,” Federer said. “I enjoyed playing with Florian. I think he brings a different challenge to the table because of his shot-making and his hitting out there. He plays a different type of shot than other players do and I think I quite enjoyed that challenge. Plus, I played very well at the beginning, so there was no real reason to get too nervous. But also I had to focus very hard at the end to play a good breaker.”
When it comes to tomorrow’s semifinal against Karlovic, the 17-time slam champion stressed that a lot will depend on being patient on court.
“I’ve played Ivo wherever it was difficult to play him, whether that’s Wimbledon, the altitude of Gstaad, slow clay, indoors — he’s thumped aces past me everywhere,” Federer said. “Hence I’m pretty used to how things are going to go against him. Also, he really is a player who’s mainly chipping from the backhand side, which is why the grass can work well for him.”
“But at the same time, it’s difficult for him to move perfectly on the surface,” the Swiss continued. “Of course, the bad bounces don’t really make it easier for him considering his height. That’s why a fast surface doesn’t necessarily work in his advantage — because he’s hitting aces on all surfaces. You just mustn’t let it frustrate you, remain calm and focus on your own game. Luckily it’s not the first round but the semifinals, so I’ve got an idea how the court plays and I’ve gotten used to the conditions. But it does depend a little on how he plays. Alas, if you lose, you can’t even say that you’ve played badly because there just aren’t any rallies and that’s something he does really well. He’ll try to apply that pressure.”
Play concluded on an unfortunate note, as Gael Monfils retired trailing 1-6, 0-1 during his quarterfinal against Andreas Seppi. In the first set, Monfils sprinted into a slice that saw him almost crashing into the banners and bench courtside and after his match, the No. 4 seed said he felt he injured his adductor muscle — possibly putting his Wimbledon appearance into jeopardy.
Seppi, by contrast, has earned a shot at making it into the third grass court final of his career — but first he’ll had to overcome a steep hurdle in Nishikori in the second match on Centre Court tomorrow. Saturday’s schedule of play will conclude with the doubles finals.
Bis morgen and goodnight from Halle!