Roger Federer stops time. The Swiss tennis player, who will turn 40 on August 8, built his legend across generations. On the lawn of the Halle ATP 500, the former world number 1 achieved a new longevity mark: first faced a player born in this century. However, his task was far from being a cause for celebration and his ups and downs opened a question mark with a view to Wimbledon, which will begin on the 28 of the current one.
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The canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime (21 °) born the same day as Federer, although 19 years later: in 2000. For the 8th finals of the German tournament, the player trained by Frederic Fontang (and who has received the assistance of Toni Nadal), gave himself great pleasure by beating the current number 8 of the circuit by 4-6, 6 -3 and 6-2, in 1h44m (in the quarterfinals he will face the winner of the local Jan-Lennard Struff and the American Marcos Giron).
Federer had competed against players born in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, but never against someone born after 2000. Roger’s rival with the “oldest” date of birth was the Italian Gianluca Pozzi (June 17, 1965), against whom he finished his career with a 1-1 record. following defeat in a Davis Cup series in 1999 and success in the 2000 Copenhagen tournament, months before Auger-Aliassime was born.
Of course, Federer longed to celebrate that mark in his career with a victory, seeking to add rhythm and confidence on grass to try to reach Wimbledon in the best possible conditions, the Grand Slam that he won eight times. He was aiming for his 70th victory in Halle, a contest that he conquered ten times, but the winner of 20 Grand Slam trophies was not a good performance. During the first set he wore balanced and fresh movements, good impacts (he scored several backhand passing shots) and solid service records, but the Helvetian was losing spark and was upset when he could not sustain the rallies from the bottom in front of an opponent who last Sunday he had played a final on grass (in Stuttgart; loss to Marin Cilic).
In the first set, Federer broke the American’s serve in the seventh game to lead 4-3. He then served 5-4 and 15-40, but he solved the two break opportunities against him well and took the first set. But in the second set, Auger-Aliassime was more focused and precise in his shots, making Federer uncomfortable and breaking his serve in the sixth game, going ahead in the score (4-2). Since then, he kept pushing, practically did not hesitate and took over the set (6-2).
Many expected a reaction from Federer, who opened the deciding set with his serve, but Auger-Aliassime broke his serve immediately, on the fourth break point (1-0). Looking very active and in just one minute and 12 seconds, the Canadian held his serve (2-0). The Swiss accentuated his difficulties, missed some abnormal shots for a player of his category and gave up the serve again in the third game (0-3).
Stop looking like this 😭😭😭 I’m scared pic.twitter.com/clWI6MWniS
– Pierre (@szaczn) June 16, 2021
The Canadian, emboldened, stayed on the same path and struck cleanly against a player who did not hide his concern and who ended up with 25 unforced errors: in the side changes Federer was observed somewhat crestfallen, as if trying to find explanations. Auger-Aliassime, who did not face a breakdown chance against in the final set, finished his work with an ace (he scored 13 in total). For now, he has a karma: having lost the eight ATP finals he played; But, unlike most, you can say that you managed to defeat the Swiss legend.
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Federer, the last champion in Halle (in 2019), had never lost before the quarter-finals in his 18 appearances in the German tournament. “It is a great honor to play against Federer before he retires and winning is incredible. He was my idol when I was growing up. I never thought that one day I could play with him. I thought he would retire when he was a professional, ”said the Canadian. When Federer turned 19 and Auger-Aliassime was born, on August 8, 2000, the Swiss had an ATP record of 35 wins and 40 losses, and had already reached an ATP Tour final, in 2000, in Marseille.
“I needed time to digest the third set, I was not happy with how it ended, it was similar to the one in Geneva [caída ante Pablo Andújar en tres sets]. I took my time before entering the press conference because I did not want to say the wrong things played by emotions “The Swiss confessed, with a stern gesture, after taking two hours between the end of the match and the attention to the journalists. He usually goes to the press room quickly and speaks in three languages after winning or losing, however he asked to do it only in English, so the Swiss journalists had to ask in that language. “I was very negative, which is not my style. My attitude was bad, I’m not proud of it. That was disappointing. “added Federer, who wanted to understand why he felt this way, exchanging ideas with part of his family and one of his coaches, Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.
“The rehabilitation process was a great challenge for me. Everyone who has had multiple surgeries knows what I am talking about. Things are not easy anymore and that is sometimes the biggest concern (…) I received a lot of information about my matches in the last weeks. Changing surfaces is not easy, Auger-Aliassime is a great player and he was better ”, he added.
– NOVENTI OPEN (@ATPHalle) June 16, 2021
After a 2020 almost without activity due to the pandemic and the two right knee surgeries (he only played the Australian Open), Halle’s was -barely- the fourth tournament of the season for Federer (he also performed in Doha, Geneva and Roland Garros , with four wins, two losses and a walkover). After losing to Auger-Aliassime, the Swiss left the Gerry Weber Stadion to applause, although affected by the fall and performance. You will return to Switzerland to study your next steps. His greatest illusion is in Wimbledon, although, clearly, he will not reach the All England as he longed for.