June 21, 2015

Time and Again

The last few weeks -- whether at warm up events like Den Bosch or on the big stage of Paris, we've seen some unlikely players break through the ranks and make a name for themselves on court. But this weekend a couple of repeat champions reminded us that not everyone is willing to cede control of a tournament to the upstarts -- and showed us why they're still at the top of their games.

Roger Federer was making his thirteenth appearance at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle and going for a record eighth title there. But as formidable as the world #2 always is, at this point in his career, he's more than capable of notching some surprising losses. He did drop a set to Philipp Kohlschreiber in his opener and got pushed to two tiebreaks by big-serving Ivo Karlovic in the semis, after all. And meanwhile, Andreas Seppi, the man who'd stunned Fed just a few months ago in their Australian Open third round, was way more rested coming into Sunday's final. The veteran Italian, down at #45 in the world now, had seen both Gael Monfils and Kei Nishikori retire in his last two rounds, so he hadn't played a full match since Thursday. Perhaps, then, he was a little rusty in this weekend's championship -- though he kept it tight in the first set, saving all three break opportunities he faced, he was dominated in the tiebreak. And Federer came out swinging in the second, firing off another seven aces, dropping just two points on his first serve, and closing out the match in two sets. Roger's trophy is just the latest in a long list of records he already holds, but as he heads to the place where he first started racking them up, he might just have the momentum to pick up one more.

As usual, there was plenty of talent on the field in London too, but not everyone fared too well. Defending champion Grigor Dimtrov, struggling a bit over the last few months, only managed one win before falling to Gilles Muller in his second round. And second seed Stan Wawrinka, fresh off a historic win at the French Open, fell to familiar foe Kevin Anderson in two tiebreaks. Anderson would ride that win all the way to the final, but would ultimately run into the force that is Andy Murray. His tenure at the Aegon Championships may not be quite as long as Federer's in Germany, but going for his fourth title at the Queen's Club, the Scot has nevertheless established himself as something of a force. And he didn't seem too troubled by his heartbreaking loss in the Roland Garros semis either; despite facing a double header on Sunday -- rain suspended his match versus Viktor Troicki after six games -- he withstood ten aces from his opponent and broke serve on both opportunities he was given. The win earned the twenty-eight year old his third title of the year, but could have set an even more important precedent -- if he's as relentless as he was in reclaiming this crown, imagine how he'll be when he goes back after the slightly more illustrious one he got at the All England Club a few years back.

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