A year ago, Roger Federer withdrew from Roland Garros to preserve his knee for his beloved grass-court tour. Competing on grass for the first time since that epic 2019 Wimbledon final, Roger opened with victory in Halle, chasing an 11th title in one of his favorite events.
Roger took down Ilya Ivashka 7-6 7-5 in one hour and 34 minutes to earn the milestone 70th win in Halle and a place in the second round. It was Federer’s seventh match in the last 16 1/2 months, battling a knee injury and slowly recovering.
Ilya played only his fifth meeting on the fastest surface at the ATP level and stayed in contact with Federer until the closing stages of the second set when he was broken for the first time. Federer said that he was happy to play on grass again, that he felt good, and that he was looking forward to the next challenges from him.
The Belarusian only dropped five points on serve in the entire opening set, doing his best to keep up with Roger and creating two chances on the return at 2-1. Federer made a backhand error that got him into trouble, but he fended off break chances to avoid an early backhand.
Both players served well for the remainder of the set, with the Swiss taking a 2-1 lead in the tie break with a forehand winner. A volley winner put the defending champions 6-1 ahead, and he closed it out with another fine volley at the net at 6-4.
There was nothing to separate the opponents in the second set, and Federer closed out the ninth game with a forehand winner to keep the pressure on the other side.
Federer is optimistic
“[Rehab’s] going slowly. I keep getting asked, ‘And what does it look like?’ and I have to say every time that it will take a little longer.
I just have to be patient and keep making progress,” Roger Federer said. “I’m going straight to the gym right now and it’s 5 or 6 times a week. I could do a lot more, but at the moment we’re focusing on fitness so that there’s no overload.”
Noting that he will be getting more information about the state of his knees in the coming months, the 20-time Grand Slam champion remarked that he has no other option but to wait until then. “The goal is to be ready for the Laver Cup and Basel by the end of the year.
I’ll get a lot of information in the next few months because I’m running out of space now,” Federer said. “I play with the kids from time to time. Tennis still has to wait a little bit. I’ll do enough of that when I have time.”