Halle R2 previews and predictions: Federer vs. Zverev, Nishikori vs. Khachanov

Roger Federer will continue his Halle campaign on Thursday, when he goes up against Mischa Zverev during quarterfinal action. Kei Nishikori and Karen Khachanov are also aiming for a place in the last four.

(1) Roger Federer vs. Mischa Zverev

Federer and Zverev will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers when they go head-to-head in round two of the Gerry Weber Open on Thursday. All three of their previous encounters have gone Federer’s way and he most recently dominated 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 earlier this season in the Australian Open quarterfinals. The two veterans were on course to collide this past week in Stuttgart, but Federer was stunned by Tommy Haas in his opener and thus Zverev had an all-German affair on his hands in the quarters (Zverev won 6-4, 6-4).

In his effort to recover from that setback and get his game in gear for Wimbledon, Federer kicked things off in Halle by beating lucky loser Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday. The 35-year-old Swiss is now 20-2 in 2017 with titles in Melbourne, Indian Wells, and Miami. He has held a match point every single time he has taken the court this season. Zverev slumped after making his quarterfinal run Down Under but he made a surprising clay-court final appearance in Geneva as a qualifier (fell to Stan Wawrinka in three sets). Back on a much more suitable surface for his net-charging style, the 29th-ranked German reached the Stuttgart semis last week and took care of qualifier Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday. This may not be entirely routine for Federer if Zverev serves well, but the underdog is 0-7 lifetime in total sets against the former world No. 1 and the result was a double-bagel the last time these two met in Halle (2013 quarterfinals).

Pick: Federer in 2 with no tiebreakers

(3) Kei Nishikori vs. Karen Khachanov

Both Nishikori and Khachanov did some stellar work at the French Open and they are now hoping for more of the same on grass on the way to Wimbledon. Nishikori reached the quarterfinals before succumbing to world No. 1 Andy Murray, while Khachanov took out Tomas Berdych and John Isner before falling to Murray. Thus a second career showdown between these two competitors was denied. They previously faced each other in last summer’s U.S. Open second round, with Nishikori coming out on top 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

A much more established ATP-level force 10 months later, Khachanov is up to a career-high ranking of 38th in the world. The 21-year-old Russian, a title winner last fall in Shenzhen, opened in Halle by beating Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3. Nishikori advanced with a 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Fernando Verdasco, whom he beat in four sets at Roland Garros. The world No. 9 from Japan is 25-9 in 2017 but still in search of his first title. Although it may not come on this surface, Khachanov is one of those big hitters who may end up preferring clay as opposed to grass in order to have time to set up for his forehand and consistently hit balls in his strike zone.

Pick: Nishikori in 3

28 Comments on Halle R2 previews and predictions: Federer vs. Zverev, Nishikori vs. Khachanov

  1. @stu_fraser: “Roger Federer beats Mischa Zverev 7-6 6-4. Top 4 seeding guaranteed. Number 3 if he wins the Halle title. Stan Wawrinka now fifth seed.”

    Fed and Rafa can now only meet in the final.

    • Good.

      Don’t see that happening but I’m sure they’d find a reason to close the roof should it come to be.

      • …..or slick up the grass like the Aussies did with the AO surface, so Fed can just whizz a bunch of aces past Rafa.


      • Hawkeye, a couple of days ago, when we debated all the positive changes in Rafa’s game on the Rafa thread and how he might thrive at Wimby again after so many years of disappointing early exits, you sounded a lot more optimistic concerning Rafa’s chances at Wimby. What has caused this slightly more pessimistic attitude?

        • I’m not saying you’re wrong. A lot of things have to go right for Rafa in order to even reach the second week once again at Wimby, let alone to play for the title. But his currently high level of play gives us cause to be more optimistic than in previous years.

          • Can’t find the conversation you are referring to so I’d have to see the context.

            No, Rafa was at a very high level in 2013. Didn’t matter.

            • True, 2013 he was in great shape and was still out early at Wimby. That’s why I am only very cautiously optimistic as far as his current chances are concerned. While at RG even the star could’ve aligned against him and he still would’ve won – so good was he – at Wimby a lot of things have to go right in order to succeed again. And Fed is probably not the most urgent problem.

            • littlefoot (AT 7:10 PM),

              Rafa’s interview in Cincinnati on August 14, 2013:

              RAFAEL NADAL: “My knee…I felt more trouble on grass because the movements are less stable and I need to play lower than in the rest of the surfaces.”

            • As for 2012, Rafa was diagnosed with Hoffa’s disease in his left knee in the middle of 2012 and because of that he was off the Tour for 7 months (until Feb. 2013). He got his pain under control, but he still had some pain during the whole year 2013. He underwent stem cell treatment on his left knee at the end of 2013 and it helped him.

            • As for ‘since’ 2012, Rafa himself said recently that since then it has been tougher and tougher to compete on grass.

              Rafa’s post-match press conference on June 11, 2017:

              Q. “Can I ask you about Wimbledon? …”
              RAFAEL NADAL: “…There has been a while since I don’t play very good Wimbledon. It’s true that after 2012 what happened with my knees have been tougher and tougher to compete on grass for me…”

  2. I think he is in a much better position to make a good run than he was in 2013. I think so because of a few reasons.

    I thought Rafa was playing at a reasonably good level in 2014. He wasn’t bad at all against Kyrgios but was just caught off guard and didn’t have an answer to NK’s serve. NK serve is INSANE that day. His serve down the T on the deuce court was unplayable for Rafa that day.

    • Agreed. Also, Rafa was not clutch enough during the TB whilst Kygrios served the best he could.

      Rafa was practicing his backhand slices in Mallorca, I think that’s good news, he certainly needs all parts of his game to be working well, his serves and slices especially. Of course the most important thing is, he has to be fit and healthy with his knees in good conditions.

  3. I think, Rafa will work really hard on his serve these three weeks. He will definitely hit his second serve even bigger and I am sure he is going to increase the pace on his first serves. I am looking forward to seeing him serving harder than he was at RG.

    I hope they are also focused on improving his backhand slice. That shot is CRITICAL on grass and if he can improve it like 10%, benefits will be huge.

    And of course, like all other Rafans, I am hoping he gets a good draw.

  4. Good grief cant we just wait and see what happens before we write people off, or pencil them in for another title, too many damn crystal balls here ….

    • Good grief cant we post a different POV without Alison Hodge telling us not to, too many damn self-proclaimed censors here….

    • I hope that Rafa will work on his serve because it’s so critical on grass. The backhand slice is also a key shot for him on the grass. I think Rafa knows what he needs to do to prepare for grass. With Moya’s help he should have some solid prep.

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