Reigning Australian Open champion Roger Federer lost his first grass court match of 2017 at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart to good friend Tommy Haas, despite holding a match point. Nonetheless, Federer has shaken off his rustiness, after hardly playing since Miami, he won his first grass court match in almost a year at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle against Yuichi Sugita, 6-3, 6-1 in a mere 52 minutes. Federer will play Germany's Mischa Zverev in the second round. The top seed defeated Zverev in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open back in January.
With Federer's compatriot, Stan Wawrinka losing in the first round at the Aegon Championships in London. Federer is one win away from gaining a crucial top four-seeded spot at Wimbledon. The current world number five will be chasing an eighth Wimbledon title in a few weeks time at SW19.
Federer sails in the opening set
The eight-time champion held serve to love in the opening game, and the world number 66 followed suit in the second game with some good serving in his own right.
The 18-time Grand Slam champion was looking to settle in this match with the Japanese number two playing some good tennis to unsettle the Swiss maestro. Nonetheless, Federer held onto his serve with some good serving.
Sugita doesn't possess the firepower to trouble the former world number one and it was evident in the next game as the top seed broke the 28-year-old's serve to lead 3-1.
The ease and elegance of Federer's serve were a joy for the crowd to watch as the seven-time Wimbledon champion continued to serve out wide, and employed the serve and volley tactic to hold serve to love and consolidate the break.
Sugita stopped the run of games against him as the world number 66 raced out to a 40-0 lead with some strong forehands, and gained some help from Federer, who committed unforced errors. Sugita held serve with a forehand winner down the line but trailed 4-2.
Both players held onto their serves with ease in the next two couple of games, and at 5-3, the former world number one was serving for the opening set. Federer committed two uncharacteristic forehand unforced errors at 15-30 but he sent down an ace, and a good forehand approach at the net to create a set point. The eight-time champion in Halle converted the set point with an ace down the T taking the opening set 6-3 in 21 minutes.
Federer books his place in round two in Halle
It was crucial for Sugita to hold serve in the opening game of the second set of the match. Both players committed unforced errors but the former world number one came out on top in an 18-shot rally to create his first break point chance of the second set. Sugita saved it in style with a volley winner at the net, following Federer's ripping backhand.
Inevitably, Federer broke the Japanese player's serve on his third break point chance with Sugita's forehand sailing long. The top seed consolidated the break with ease, as he continued to serve well in the second set, and took a commanding 2-0 lead.
The signs were ominous for Sugita as he quickly trailed at 0-40 with the Swiss maestro was looking to gain the double break advantage. The world number 66 staved off the first two break points but was unable to fend off the third one with a forehand unforced error in the net.
Federer was in cruise control of this match as he served two more aces, capping the game off with a forehand winner down the line to lead 4-0. Sugita was fighting hard to fend off this onslaught from Federer but he was unable to fight with brilliance.
The final nail was almost sealed in the coffin as the eight-time winner created two more break point chances. He was unable to convert the first two but two more arose, and Federer broke Sugita's serve for the third time in the set with a forehand winner.
Bizarrely, Federer failed to serve out for the match at 40-0, as he continued to commit uncharacteristic backhand and forehand unforced errors. Sugita reeled off five points in a row to recover one of the breaks back.
The inevitable occurred as Sugita's unforced errors continued to hamper his progress in this contest, and on his fourth match point, the former world number one defeated the lucky loser, 6-4, 6-1 in just 52 minutes.