ThrowbackTimes Halle: Roger Federer tops Marat Safin for third straight title

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ThrowbackTimes Halle: Roger Federer tops Marat Safin for third straight title

Roger Federer made a debut in Halle in 2000 at 18, finding the perfect test ground for Wimbledon and becoming the ultimate legend of this event in the past two decades. In 2003, the Swiss won the first ATP title on grass in Halle before confirming the supremacy on the fastest surface at Wimbledon, earning the first Major at the All England Club and repeating the Halle-Wimbledon double in 2004 and standing as the favorite to achieve that again a year later.

A few days after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semi-final at Roland Garros in 2005, Roger kicked off the sixth Halle campaign, defeating five solid players to grab the third straight crown at this event and extend the winning streak on the green surface.

In the first round, Roger barely escaped an early defeat against Robin Soderling, prevailing 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes after being two points away from the exit door twice. Robin led 7-6, 5-4, 30-15 and had a 5-4 advantage in the second set tie break before Federer managed to win the breaker 8-6 and bring the match home with a break in game ten in the decider after a double fault from the young Swede.

The Swiss needed only 58 minutes to overpower Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-4 in round two, losing serve twice and delivering five breaks to control the scoreboard and march into the quarters where Philipp Kohlschreiber fell 6-3, 6-4 after 62 minutes.

Federer saved all three break points and stole the German's serve once in each set to enter the semis against another German and his friend Tommy Haas. Offering no break chances, Roger notched a 6-4, 7-6 victory, taking the second set tie break 11-9 to book the place in the third consecutive Halle final where he faced Marat Safin on June 12.

It was a chance for Federer to serve revenge after that epic encounter in the semi-final at the Australian Open five months earlier when Safin prevailed 9-7 in the decider, saving a match point to advance into the final after four and a half hours.

The Russian gave his best to challenge Roger on grass as well, but the favorite proved to be too strong, scoring a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 triumph in two hours and five minutes to join Yevgeny Kafelnikov as the second player with three Halle crowns.

Hitting 12 aces, Marat delivered better numbers behind the first serve while the second let him down, getting broken three times and converting only one out of six opportunities on the return to push Federer over the top.

Nothing could separate them in the mid-range and more extended exchanges, and Roger forged the victory in the most dominant area up to four strokes, delivering more service winners and doing more damage with the first strike after the initial shot, including volleys.

Also, Federer tamed his strokes more efficiently, committing fewer errors than Marat and finding the way to cross the finish line first. The Swiss kicked off the clash in a perfect manner, holding at love in the opening game and earning a break a few minutes later after a backhand error from Safin.

Roger blasted three winners in game three to extend the lead before Marat pulled the break back at 1-3 after a colossal forehand mistake from the defending champion. After reliable serving on both sides, Safin served to stay in the set at 4-5, wasting a game point and spraying another error to suffer a break and hand the set to world no.

1. Marat was the better player in set number two, dropping seven points in six service games and never facing troubles on serve to mount the pressure on Roger who worked hard to reach the tie break, repelling four break points to set up a tie break that the Russian claimed 8-6.

In the decider, Roger found the rhythm on return again, breaking Marat in game three and giving away only five points in the next four service games. Serving for the victory at 5-4, Roger Federer produced an excellent hold to celebrate the title, the 29th on the Tour overall and already the seventh in 2005 after Doha, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and Hamburg, building confidence ahead of Wimbledon where he was the two-time defending champion.