ROGER Federer has claimed his 98th ATP title, displaying his unrivalled superiority on grass with a 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory over Milos Raonic in the Stuttgart Cup final.
The top-seeded Swiss beat his Canadian opponent for the 11th time in 14 meetings while winning a first Stuttgart title.
Federer, who will be chasing a ninth Wimbledon triumph next month, finally came good on the German grass on his third attempt after losing a semi-final in 2016 to Dominic Thiem and falling in the first round here a year ago to good friend Tommy Haas.
“I’m just very happy how I played this week,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “I never felt bad on the court, to be honest.
“I was there in the most important moments, breaking Milos (in the first set) was a good effort. It’s been a great week for me.” The 36-year-old will regain the world number one ranking on Monday and is playing next week as top seed in Halle as he continues his comeback after skipping the clay-court season.
“It’s a great comeback for me,” Federer said after completing his 78-minute win. “I’m so happy to win this tournament in my third attempt. We’ll see if being number one again will probably give me a boost.”
Federer secured a return to the top ATP ranking for a sixth time with his semi-final victory on Saturday over Australian Nick Kyrgios.
He takes the honour back from Rafael Nadal for the second time this season. Federer kept tight control on the match as he claimed his third title of the season after the Australian Open and Rotterdam and now owns 18 grass trophies including eight from Wimbledon.
“I think I played very well not having played for a while,” Federer added. “Maybe I was a bit better on the big points.” The Swiss broke twice in the first set to take it after 32 minutes when his opponent returned long over the baseline.
The second set stayed on serve into a tiebreaker.
A double fault from the Canadian followed by a return winner from the Swiss set up three match points, with Federer needing only his first as Raonic netted a return.
Federer improved to 21-2 for the season after playing in the 24th grass final of his career.
Next week, he will open his Halle bid in the first round against Aljaz Bedene. However, first on his mind is the World Cup with Switzerland facing Brazil on Sunday night in Russia.
“It will be a hectic 48 hours,” said Federer. “I’m driving to Switzerland tonight and will then watch the match — I don’t know if that one will be hectic or not…” Federer will fly to Halle on Monday to prepare for what he is told is a Tuesday start.
“The key for me is to be ready for that opening match. I’m defending a title there — like I am at Wimbledon. I need to get through the first round.” As he takes things one step at a time, Federer is not yet ready to start concentrating on the job ahead at the All England Club.
“That’s the plan for now, for Wimbledon I still have time. I have a quiet pre-tournament week, not many things going on, which is fine.
“I just hope to stay injury-free and healthy.” Out to try and stop him at Halle will be world number three and second seed Alexander Zverev, who had cast doubt on his fitness after losing in the Roland Garros quarter-finals to eventual finalist Thiem.
Zverev will start his grass season by facing Croatian Borna Coric. Third seed Thiem, who lost to Nadal a week ago in the French Open final, begins with a match against a qualifier.
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