World #1 Roger Federer is just one win away from taking a tenth career Halle Open. He hasn’t had things all his own way throughout the tournament, but has done enough to win through to the final, where he will face Croatian Borna Coric. Coric is the 34th ranked player in the world, and will head into this match as a big underdog, although he has shown that he can mix it with the big boys before. Who will lift the title?
At just 21 years of age, Coric has twice faced Federer. Both of these matches came in semifinals, and both times Federer triumphed, albeit in fairly different ways. The first of these matches was in Dubai back in 2015, and Federer didn’t skip a beat as he disposed of the then 18-year-old Coric 6-2 6-1, despite the Croatian having been in fine form, having defeated Andy Murray in straight sets earlier that week.
They didn’t face again each other for another three years, until they matched up in the semifinals at the Indian Wells Masters earlier this year. That match was a completely different story, with Coric pushing Federer over the course of two hours and twenty minutes. After winning the first set 7-5, the Croatian eventually went down 5-7 6-4 6-4 despite twice leading by a break in the deciding set, making it a match he may feel he should have won.
Path to the final
Federer hasn’t had a single easy match on his way to the final. He started off with a 6-3 6-4 win over Aljaz Bedene, his easiest victory of the tournament. Benoit Paire came close to knocking him out in the second round, where Federer snuck through with a 6-3 3-6 7-6 win, saving two match points. Federer’s quarterfinal and semifinal match ups were both tight straight sets wins; he won each 7-6 7-5, first against Australian Matthew Ebden and then America’s Denis Kudla.
Coric, in contrast, has done things with ease. He started off with a very impressive 6-1 6-4 victory over world #3 and reigning Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev, before disposing of the Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-2. That set up a match with Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who proved a sterner test, but Coric won 7-5 6-3, before his semifinal opponent Roberto Bautista Agut retired after just five games to send him into his first final of the year.
How do they match up?
Federer matches up pretty well against everybody such is his quality when stepping onto the court. He has probably the best all-round game tennis has ever seen, with an accurate and powerful serve, incredible precision on his forehand, and a graceful single-handed backhand. He is also capable at the net, and can turn defence into offence with apparent ease. He is also at his best on grass, with the quick surface aiding his attacking play.
Coric is most comfortable at the baseline, from where he is able to force opponents into long rallies. He is solid on both wings and moves superbly, allowing him to execute his defensive style. As a result, he relies fairly heavily on wearing opponents down. Unfortunately for him, Federer is about as reliable as they come, and Coric will need to do more than defend to beat the Swiss maestro. But he showed in Indian Wells he can make Federer work.
If ever Coric was going to beat Federer, now would be the time. Federer is looking vulnerable after missing the clay court season, and has struggled in a number of his matches so far at this tournament. Coric, however, doesn’t have the weapons to challenge one of the greatest players of all time on his favoured surface, and even if Federer is off his game, he should still have the firepower to get the job done. He’ll win his tenth career title at the Gerry Weber Open with a tight two set win.