Halle Westfallen: Roger Federer was given an unusually early start on Friday at the Gerry Weber Open, set to play his quarter final against the German wildcard Mischa Zverev at noon.
He responded to the early summons with a shockingly early finish, beating 156th-ranked Zverev, 6-0, 6-0, in 39 minutes. It was only Federer’s second career 6-0, 6-0 win, which may come as a surprise given his near decade of dominance on the Tour and his 902 career victories. His previous double bagel, as such victories are sometimes called, came in the semi finals of the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai in 2005, over Gaston Gaudio, the 2004 French Open champion.
Federer, the world No. 3 and top seed in Halle, said he was not surprised about the rarity, for him, of the feat, which is far more common on the women’s tour, where fewer easy points are won off the serve.
“No, it’s not something which is easy to do,” he said. “You never go into a match aiming for that score. And eventually you start feeling that there’s an opportunity, maybe, and even then it’s not what you really want to think about. Because at the end of the day you just want to win the match and not start thinking too far ahead; then it comes back and gets you. Yeah, so I was very surprised today that it happened, especially on the grass.”
The win was the third 6-0, 6-0 win of this year on the ATP World Tour. There was only one double bagel on the tour last year, and none in 2010 or 2011.
Federer won by mercilessly picking apart Zverev’s unwavering commitment to old-school serve-and-volley tennis, hitting strong returns and passing shots at will. With the current combination of slower, truer-bouncing courts and more powerful rackets, consistent serve-and-volley is a largely extinct tactic, and is now used mostly as an occasional surprise tactic.
“Yeah, I think it is disappointing for a serve-and-volley player to go down like this,” Federer said of Zverev’s inability to threaten him. “It shows also how much easier it is to hit passing shots or returns today in this day and age. But I really expected him to cause me more trouble with his serve. First of all, he is a lefty. And then it is a grass court, he is a serve-and-volley player, so you always think he’ll find a way to make me feel uncomfortable somewhat with my backhand.”
Federer said that though Zverev did not ace him in their quarter final match, he had seen him hit nine aces in his second-round win over the lucky loser Mirza Basic.
“I knew it could be tough,” Federer said. “I just had a pretty easy time picking up his serve, and made a ton of returns, and always made him hit first volleys under the net. And then eventually maybe he forced a bit too much, or didn’t believe as much anymore in his own serve, and that gave me a lot of opportunities. I just played a clean match from start to finish, so for me it was a solid performance. I’m very happy.”
As they share a family name (though no direct relation), Zverev’s defeat was somewhat evocative of the 6-0, 6-0 loss by Natalia Zvereva to Steffi Graf in the finals of the 1988 French Open, a match that lasted 32 minutes.
The win could serve as an homage of sorts from Federer to Graf, who celebrates her 44th birthday on Friday. Graf recorded 22 double bagels in her career.