Roger Federer once again returns to Halle to begin his 2015 grass court preparations. Federer has racked up three consecutive appearances in the final in Halle and is unbeaten at this tournament since 2012, beating Mikhail Youzhny in the 2013 final (6-7 6-3 6-4) and Alejandro Falla in the 2014 final (7-6 7-6). Federer opens against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Federer leads the head-to-head against Kohlschreiber, 8-0 but as first round matches go, this is a tough opener. Kohlschreiber is a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist and reached the quarters of Stuttgart this week.
Federer’s quarter has its pitfalls; in the second round he will play Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ernests Gulbis. If it’s a rematch with Stakhovsky, it will be one of those rare occasions where i’ll be 100% rooting for Fed. Stakhovsky winning again would be unbearable for his ego. The other seed in this section is Bernard Tomic, who began his grass court season with a quarter-final showing in Stuttgart, losing in three sets to Rafael Nadal. Tomic will be one to keep an eye out for over the next few weeks and he plays Steve Johnson in the first round.
Tomas Berdych and Ivo Karlovic are the two seeds in the second quarter. Both open against clay courters with Berdych playing Victor Estrella Burgos and Karlovic taking on Santiago Giraldo. The 18-year-old, Alexander Zverev is also in this section, as are Donald Young and Borna Coric who meet in an intriguing first round match. Coric won just two games against Viktor Troicki in Stuttgart last week. Gael Monfils and Tommy Robredo headline the third quarter. Monfils did well to reach the semi-finals in Stuttgart, but didn’t seem to be 100%. He’s also been quite open about his dislike of the grass. Robredo did reach the last 16 of Wimbledon last year but it was his best showing in 13 appearances. Robredo was injured for much of the clay court season and will be vulnerable. This section could quite easily break up with Tommy Haas, Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely all having prime opportunities to make the semis.
Kei Nishikori bookends the draw and plays his first grass court match of 2015 against Dominic Thiem. On paper it looks a fascinating match-up but Thiem has never looked comfortable on the grass and lost last week to Mischa Zverev in Stuttgart. Dustin Brown is in this section and always has the potential to come alive on this surface. He took Nadal apart last year with a quite majestic performance. The other seed in this quarter is Pablo Cuevas, who opens against Jerzy Janowicz. Cuevas has only played Wimbledon twice in his career, not making it past the second round in either occasion. Janowicz isn’t exactly reliable but i’d fancy him to make the quarters.
1st Round Predictions: Federer d. Kohlschreiber in 2 tight sets, Stakhovsky d. Gulbis in 2 sets, Mayer d. Struff in 3 sets, Tomic d. Johnson in 2 tight sets, Coric d. Young in 3 sets, Karlovic d. Giraldo in 2 sets, Haas d. Seppi in 2 sets, Vesely d. Kukushkin in 3 sets, Rosol d. Monfils in 2 tight sets, Janowicz d. Cuevas in 3 sets, Brown d. Haider-Maurer in 2 sets and Nishikori d. Thiem in 2 sets
Final Prediction: Federer d. Nishikori