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ThrowbackTimes Halle: Roger Federer matches Bjorn Borg’s ultimate record on grass

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In 2006, Roger Federer made the first Roland Garros final, losing to Rafael Nadal in four sets and heading to Halle straight away to kick off grass season! Undefeated on the fastest surface since Wimbledon 2002 when Mario Ancic stunned him in the first round, Roger had to make a swift transition from clay to grass, which is never easy, struggling to find the rhythm en route to the fourth straight Halle crown.

Roger Federer Open Day

In the end, the Swiss managed to pass five obstacles, defend the title and equal Bjorn Borg’s record before taking well-deserved rest ahead of Wimbledon. In the first round, Federer took down the doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna 7-6, 6-2 in 71 minutes, saving both break chances and leaving the Indian behind in set number two to book the place in the last 16.

There, Richard Gasquet pushed Roger to the limits for two hours and 14 minutes before the defending champion prevailed 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. Federer won just three points more than Gasquet who kept him on the baseline most of the time, taking the second set but failing to cause an upset and send Roger packing.

After one challenging match, Federer had to prepare for an even harder one against his friend and junior partner Olivier Rochus, ousting the Belgian 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes after saving four match points in the second set tie break!

They both won 131 points and scored four breaks, with the Belgian moving closer to the finish line at 4-2 in the deciding set. Somehow, Federer found the way to pull the break back, reaching the tie break and seizing the sixth match point to secure the place in the semis where he faced another good friend Tommy Haas.

Roger in action

Despite saving all three break chances, Roger again had to work hard in this encounter, claiming a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 victory in two hours and 17 minutes, converting only two out of 16 break opportunities to move into the fourth straight Halle final.
There, the Swiss toppled Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-7, 6-2 in only an hour and 35 minutes, celebrating the 20th straight win at this event and the 41st on grass overall, matching Bjorn Borg’s Open era record!

Federer was the much better player on the court, losing that second set but dominating in the first and third to march towards the finish line with six breaks from eight chances. World no. 1 forged the triumph in the mid-range rallies from five to eight strokes, storming over Berdych in the opening set to win it 6-0 in 16 minutes before the crowd saw a real battle that every final deserves to have.

Roger could have sealed the deal much earlier, breaking Tomas in the eighth game of the second set to serve for the title after some 45 minutes, only to suffer a break following a backhand winner, with Berdych taking the tie break 7-4 thanks to an ace.

Federer started all over in the decider, breaking Tomas in the third game and delivering another one at 4-2 with a forehand winner after trailing 40-0. Serving for the title, Roger fired three winners in the eighth game, wrapping up the crown with a forehand winner and staying undefeated in Halle for the fourth straight year after what had been a very challenging week for him following a deep Parisian run on clay.

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“Good Person”: Rafael Nadal Opens up on His Relationship With Rival Novak Djokovic

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Many tennis fans wonder how Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic get along outside the tennis court. Their conduct towards each other on the tennis court is always respectful, and that translates outside the court as well, as admitted by Nadal. The Spaniard spoke about his relationship with Djokovic, whom he called a good person.

“I have a good relationship with him. Is a good person. We must relativize things between us,”  Nadal said, in a recent interview, throwing light on his camaraderie with Djokovic.

There was also speculation among fans as to what Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic spoke about at the end of their French Open 2020 final. Interestingly, it was one of the most one-sided battles they have played over the years. However, Nadal said that Djokovic, with whom he shares a strong relationship, simply congratulated him and nothing more.

Rafael Nadal understands why Novak Djokovic did not say much

I could not talk to him. He congratulated me on the track and that’s it. It is normal,” Nadal said. He said he understands that Djokovic was not in a mood to talk, as no one usually is, after a heartbreaking loss.

When you lose a game like that, you don’t really want to talk. I understand it,” Nadal added.

Nadal avenged his one-sided loss in the 2019 Australian Open final against Djokovic. The two men also shared a respectful exchange during the trophy ceremony post their match. Nadal lauded Djokovic and said he hopes to keep facing him, further adding to their already great rivalry.

What you’re doing in tennis is very very special. Hope to keep facing you [Djokovic] on the court for the next couple of years,” Nadal said to Djokovic.

The mutual respect between the two stars

Despite not having a conversation with Nadal after the match, Djokovic spoke highly of Nadal in his post-match presser. Djokovic highlighted why Nadal is a great champion. He also admitted that it was one of those days where Nadal was simply the better player and there was not much he could do to tame the ‘King of Clay’.

I was also thinking that these conditions are more favorable to me. I was feeling great throughout the tournament playing. […] But, yeah, I mean, Rafa has proven everybody wrong. That’s why he’s a great champion. He just played a fantastic match today,” he said.

The two champions are expected to resume their rivalry at the ATP Finals next month. While they will not face each other in the Round Robin stage, the anticipation of another Nadal-Djokovic final is already running high.

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