Roger Federer’s charge toward the world #1 ranking got off to an awe-inspiring start in his first match at the Ahoy Rotterdam. He now stands just two matches away from returning to the top of the tennis tree but hoping to block his path is the German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber himself is a former Grand Slam quarterfinalist and top twenty stalwart. Who will come out on top in this battle of one handed backhands?
Both players have been competing on Tour for some time now and are certainly veterans, with Federer aged 36 and Kohlschreiber only a little younger at 34. They have met 12 times already over the course of those long careers, and the stats don’t make good reading for the German. Federer won their first meeting in Halle 13 years ago in straight sets and has come away with the win in every match since. That has included victories in the 2008 Halle final and three times at the Slams.
The closest Kohlschreiber has ever come to defeating the legendary Swiss is when he extended him to four sets at Wimbledon in 2009 in the third round and in 2015 at Halle when he lost a tight three-set battle. In their most recent meeting, however, it was all Federer. That came at the US Open last year, in the fourth round. Kohlschreiber put in a hard-working performance but he was outclassed from start to finish as Federer ran away with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory.
Path to the second round
Federer began his Rotterdam campaign with a blistering win against Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium. Bemelmans has been a useful Davis Cup player for the Belgians in recent years, playing often in both singles and doubles to support their star, David Goffin. But though he is a solid player, he had no chance against Federer. Even so, the manner of his destruction was stunning. Federer needed just 47 minutes to wrap up a 6-1 6-2 win in which he hit more winners than his opponent won points.
Kohlschreiber was made to work rather harder for his berth in the second round. He faced off against Karen Khachanov, the big hitting young Russian. Khachanov is enduring a difficult spell on Tour at the moment and looks short of confidence but he is still a very dangerous opponent. He showed that in an impressive first set against Kohlschreiber in which his massive forehand caused the German real problems. He won it 6-3 to leave Kohlschreiber in trouble.
But the German is an experienced player with over 400 Tour-level wins to his name. He dug deep when he needed to and began to turn the match around. He took the second set into a tiebreak and made a fast start. Khachanov didn’t recover and Kohlschreiber squared the match up by winning the breaker 7-1. The decider was a tight affair, and it went to another tiebreak. But Kohlschreiber just edged out Khachanov winning it 7-5 and will now be hoping that it is 13th time lucky against Federer.
How do they match up?
As mentioned above, both men utilise single handed backhands and are some of the most attractive players to watch on Tour. The one area where Federer has a real advantage, though, is on serve. Kohlschreiber is not a bad server, but nor is he a particularly good one. His second serve is also vulnerable to an aggressive returner, which Federer certainly is. Federer, in contrast, is amongst the best servers of all time, with his first and second deliveries struck with unparalleled accuracy.
Federer’s stroke production is also less rigid. This allows him to defend from higher up the court without the danger of being rushed and hitting mishits, which is something Kohlschreiber can struggle with on a fast court. Ultimately, it is hard to see what the German can do to really hurt Federer as he lacks the power or variety to truly upset the Swiss’ rhythm. And if Federer is given rhythm, well, there is a reason Kohlschreiber has lost 12-straight.
This match should be a routine win for Federer. Kohlschreiber is a fine ball player, but his game plays nicely into Federer’s hands and having lost the previous 12 encounters it is hard to see what he can do to stop that becoming 13. Federer won’t be as dominant as he was against Bemelmans, but he will win in straight sets again.
Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!