Questions/lessons from the Halle weekend

 - Alex Sharp

Something special was required to deny Roger Federer a 10th title in Halle, Borna Coric managed just that on Sunday.

Borna Coric and Roger Federer posing with the trophy in Halle / Borna Coric bat Roger Federer en finale du tournoi de Halle.© F. GENTSCH / DPA / AFP

Something special was required to deny Roger Federer a 10th title in Halle, but Next Gen prodigy Borna Coric managed just that on Sunday.

Is Borna back on track?

You bet. The Croatian proved his potential as a teenager with victories over Nadal (Basel, 2014) and Andy Murray(Dubai, 2015), but has wrestled with injuries and expectations in recent campaigns.

“The most unbelievable week of my whole life,” hailed the 21-year-old who lifted his second career title courtesy of a 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2 triumph over the nine-time Gerry Weber Open champion.

Remarkably, Coric only had two career grass court match wins (2-7) before his title run in Germany, which included impressive displays against second seed Alexander Zverev and Italian stalwart Andreas Seppi.

"I’m just really surprised... I had not even dreamed of this," declared Coric, having ousted Federer in a series of enthralling all-court rallies.

"It is the most unbelievable feeling. I looked up to him when I was younger, watching his matches back at home with my mum, my dad and my sister. Just playing him here today was a very special moment and beating him just makes it even bigger for me.”

Should Federer be concerned?


The script was written for Roger. A ‘decima’ of Halle titles would have placed the Swiss maestro on 99, to then target a mesmerising No.100 on his cherished Wimbledon Centre Court.

However, the 36-year-old narrowly missed out in Germany. Not just gripped by World Cup fever, Federer kicked a ball away in frustration following an unfortunate net cord. It was one of those days, which has cost his No.1 ranking and halted a 20-match winning streak on the grass.

Saying that, Federer is far from concerned having lifted the trophy in Stuttgart earlier this month.

"I’m definitely going to leave with my head high, thinking it’s been a good run in Stuttgart and Halle," said the world No.2, who owns a staggering 91-11 record at SW19.

“I’m really going to love going to Wimbledon. Being the defending champion always creates pressure. So regardless of whether I won or lost here I will be one of the favourites there.”

That’s a slice of fighting talk from Federer – he’ll be primed for another title tilt in south west London that is assured.


Do the Halle history books agree with Federer?


Federer fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

His Halle heroics or near misses over the years haven’t directly correlated to his Wimbledon ways.

From 2003-06, the Halle and Wimbledon double was achieved, but since then he has had a wealth of factors to contend with.

In 2007 and 2009 he didn’t feature in Halle to manage his schedule and still ruled at SW19. In 2008 he ousted Philipp Kohlschreiber to reign in Halle, but eventually succumbed to Rafael Nadal in that epic Wimbledon silverware showdown in near darkness.

Fast forward to 2012 and Federer lost to veteran Tommy Haas in the Halle finale, before snatching a seventh Wimbledon crown from the clutches of Andy Murray.

2014 and 2015 Halle trophies provided the platform for another duo of Wimbledon finals, but an imperious Novak Djokovic prevailed in both Championships.

Last summer Federer breezed past Zverev to claim an unprecedented ninth Halle title and then etched his name onto the Roll of Honour at Wimbledon once again.


What has caused Coric to find his feet on grass?


In recent seasons the charismatic Croatian has worked with a string of coaches, but settled with the double set-up of Riccardo Piatti and Kristijan Schneider to ignite his 2018 campaign.

Piatti is the leading coach, but doesn’t travel to all events and their arrangement appears to be paying dividends. Coric is sharp off his feet, the serve is “hitting the spots”, he’s robust, building his mental fortitude for the major stages.

The 21-year-old surrendered a set lead to fall 7-5 4-6 4-6 to Federer at Indian Wells during a promising sunshine swing. Over to Halle and down two set points at 4-6 in the opening set tie-break, Coric didn’t crack and conjured up four successive points of assured, aggressive, calculated play to steal the initiative from the top seed.

Despite losing the second set, Coric managed to interrupt the Federer momentum to close out a memorable triumph.

The world No.21 reached the third hurdle at Roland-Garros and must feel he due a deep run at Wimbledon despite first round exits in the past two attempts.

Surely toppling the eight-time Wimbledon winner will provide inspiration for Coric that the path he is plotting with Piatti is worth pursuing.

Croatian contenders at Wimbledon?


Last year Marin Cilic relinquished match point to lose the final on grass at Queen’s Club to Feliciano Lopez, weeks ahead of a heart-breaking Wimbledon final demolition.

12 months on and the towering Croat turned the tables, saving match point facing a resurgent Novak Djokovic to prevail 5-7, 7-6(4) 6-3 in west London in a gruelling three-hour battle.

Cilic searing serve does plenty of damage on the grass, but his retrieval and net play were simply sublime at Queen’s Club in some pulsating rallies.

With his grass court prowess, Cilic must be considered a contender at Wimbledon and compatriot Coric could follow him into the latter stages with a replication of his Halle exploits.