Roger Federer’s timing has always been hugely impressive and the 31-year-old Swiss chose the perfect moment to win his first title for 10 months on Sunday.
Federer, whose last tournament victory was in Cincinnati in August, warmed up for Wimbledon in traditional fashion by winning the title in Halle for the sixth time. The world No 3 beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
“I have won a lot in my career but not recently,” Federer said after claiming his 77th title. “I was satisfied with my game in the past 10 months. Maybe people thought I was playing badly. That was not the case. I was playing well, but when it mattered the others were just better. Today it worked well.”
Nevertheless, the victory was less straightforward than the reigning Wimbledon champion might have expected against an opponent he had beaten in all 14 of their previous meetings. Federer saved a set point when 6-5 down in the opening set, lost the ensuing tie-break 7-5 and did not break Youzhny until the Russian double-faulted at 3-4 in the second set.
Having served out to level the match, Federer made his final break in the seventh game of the decider and went on to secure victory after two hours and two minutes. “He just played better,” Youzhny said. “In fact, he’s been playing better all my life.”
Although it was Federer’s sixth Halle title, it was his first at the tournament since 2008. In the intervening years he has twice lost in the final, to Lleyton Hewitt and to Tommy Haas.
Elena Baltacha claimed her first title since beginning her comeback after ankle surgery when she won the Aegon Challenge in Nottingham, beating Slovenia’s Tadeja Majeric, the world No 135, 7-5, 7-6.
The former British No 1, who has been given a wild card for this week’s Aegon International in Eastbourne, said afterwards: “It was so exciting to be part of something like that. It means absolutely everything to me. I was pretty much bawling my eyes out. To come back and play tennis like that consistently in five matches was such an amazing feeling.”
Croatia’s Donna Vekic, aged 16, was denied her first title on the main tour when she was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by Daniela Hantuchova in the final of the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston.
Vekic, who is based in London and works with David Felgate, Tim Henman’s former coach, is the youngest player in the world’s top 350.