Halle Open 2019: Roger Federer faces John Millman in his first grasscourt challenge of the year
When Roger Federer lost to John Millman in the fourth round of the US Open last year, almost every tennis admirer was taken aback. It was one of those rare matches where the body language of Federer suggested that he wanted to leave the court as quickly as possible, irrespective of the result of the match. There was exhaustion in his game and the Australian took advantage of it in the best way possible.
Nine months later the two players are set to meet for the third time on the tour. And the shocking manner with which he lost to the Aussie would still be fresh in the mind of Federer as he sets his eyes on a record 10th Halle Open title this year.
Millman's performance in 2019 has been underwhelming so far as he has not been able to reach the quarterfinal in any of the tournaments he has played. But the confidence of having defeated Federer will surely be of great help to the Australian heading into this match.
Millman was quick enough to identify last year at Flushing Meadows that if pinned to the baseline, Federer is bound to make errors. He would like to use the same tactic again in this encounter as well.
Coming to Federer, he would like to take the positives from his claycourt stint over the last month. Despite not playing on clay for two years prior he was able to reach the semi-finals of the French Open, where he bowed down to the eventual champion, Rafael Nadal.
Federer's affinity to grass is well-known; he has always stated that it is his favorite surface to play on. But he did lose two matches on grass last year - to Borna Coric in the Halle final, and to Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon quarterfinal. That could well be playing on his mind right now.
Millman might not have too high odds of winning this match, but he can certainly push Federer to his limit as he did at the US Open last year. If the Aussie is patient enough to wait for Federer to commit errors from the baseline, he could make things interesting.
Federer, on the other hand, would look to attack right from the word "go" rather than staying back and hitting a lot of balls from the baseline. Grass does give him the opportunity to cut his points short and thereby complete sets and matches as quickly as possible.
This match could well be a one-sided affair considering the tournament and the surface (both favoring Federer). But any lapse in concentration from Federer, and Millman will be ready to take advantage and expose the Swiss maestro's vulnerabilities.