Roger Federer announced the return of the grasscourt season on Sunday by raising the MercedesCup title in Stuttgart and returning to the No. 1 ATP ranking, displacing recent French Open champion Rafael Nadal.
It came on the heels of an 11-week vacation as the 36-year-old Swiss skipped the claycourt season to heal injuries and prepare for his assault on the grass.
In the final Federer beat No. 7 seed and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3), extending his grasscourt winning streak to 16 matches.
“I thought it was a good final from my side,” Federer said afterwards. “I think I played very well throughout the tournament, actually, having not played for a while. It’s a great comeback for me. Maybe I was a little bit better on the bigger points. Of course I’m so happy to have won here, finally, in Stuttgart.”
Last year in Stuttgart Federer was shocked in the first round by long-time grasscourt rival and former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, his last loss on grass.
“It’s been difficult the last years [in Stuttgart], lost a [couple] tight matches,” Federer said. “But not this year. They went my way, so I’m very happy.”
At age 36 Federer continued his astounding run, reclaiming the No. 1 rank when he reached the semifinals, and winning his 98th career title and 18th on grass, raising his all-time best grass winning percentage to 87.5 percent.
It was Federer’s third title of the year after the Australian Open and Rotterdam. To enter Wimbledon as the No. 1-ranked player he must successfully defend his title next week in Halle. Nadal withdrew from next week’s event at the Queen’s Club.
Federer broke Raonic at 1-1 in the first after the Canadian had not dropped a service game all week. In the second-set tiebreak Raonic double faulted at 3-4 before Federer closed it out.
“I had some chances today but couldn’t convert them,” said the oft-injured Raonic, appearing in his first final since Istanbul last year. “All in all it was very positive for me and I hope to keep that trend going. I’m not far off from my best grass tennis. Maybe I’m lacking the confidence for the right decision still. I hit the ball well, my service is good. Maybe I need a few more matches to get the confidence to make the right decisions in a split second.”
Raonic is now 8-14 in career finals, losing his last five and last winning at 2016 Brisbane.
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