Roger Federer says he “missed” playing on his favoured grass courts after starting his Wimbledon preparations with a win over Ilya Ivashka at the Halle Open.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion beat the Belarusian 7-6, 7-5 to reach the second round in Germany, two weeks before the third Grand Slam of the year starts in London.
Federer pulled out of the French Open after his third round win just over a week ago to look after his body ahead of Wimbledon, where he has his best major record with eight titles.
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As he turns 40 this year, the All England Club is likely his best chance of adding another Slam to his collection, and having not played on grass since losing to Novak Djokovic in an epic Wimbledon final two years ago, he is delighted to be back on the surface.
“I've missed it, I haven’t played a tournament in two years on this surface so I’ve done the hard courts, I’ve done the clay and now I’ve done the grass,” he said after the match.
“It’s been great being here in Halle, I love playing here, there was just very little crowd. It’s obviously a bit of a disappointment for all of us but at the same time, I’m excited to be back on the green grass and getting a win is obviously always very nice.”
Federer’s withdrawal from Roland Garros raised concerns about his fitness ahead of Wimbledon, having only this season returned from two operations on his knee. But he says he is in decent shape.
The back’s good, I feel fine, it’s really just the legs and the match fitness that I’m looking forward to and getting through here breakers, like I did in Paris as well, and getting through here on a different surface, staying calm, taking the right decision when it’s most important - that’s what it’s all about for me right now.
Federer does not have much competitive tennis under his belt this year, but has still taken part in the early season hard court and clay swings, before moving on to grass. He is pleased with the way he started his campaign in Halle.
“You can't compare to the clay courts,” he said about returning to grass.
“You’re not going to get those rallies that you’re maybe looking for, you might get those service winners, aces and get your opponent guessing a lot more on the return games than on any other surface.
“(There was a) Tough moment early on in the first set when he had break point, so that was crucial to get out of those and then I played a really good tie break which I was happy about and as the match went on, I started to create more opportunities and calmed my nerves a bit.
“I served very well, clearly it can always be better but I’m very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first round.”
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