On this day: Roger Federer edges Marat Safin for the three-peat in Halle


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On this day: Roger Federer edges Marat Safin for the three-peat in Halle

Roger Federer had come to Halle for the first time in 200, still at the age of 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 had won the first ATP title on grass in Halle before confirming the supremacy on the fastest surface at Wimbledon where he won the first Major crown, repeating the Halle-Wimbledon double in 2004 and standing as the favorite for a three-peat in 2005.

A few days after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semi-final at Roland Garros, 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 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 lead 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 dismantle 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 his great friend Tommy Haas. Never facing a break point, 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.

This 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 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 in the end, scoring a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 victory in two hours and five minutes, joining Yevgeny Kafelnikov as the second player with three Halle crowns.

Hitting 12 aces, Marat delivered better numbers behind the first serve but 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 have separated 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 a fewer number of errors than Marat and finding the way to cross the finish line first in the end. 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 in game five after a huge 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 send Roger 6-4 up.

Marat was the better player in set number two, dropping seven points in six service games and never facing a break point to mount the pressure on Roger who had to dig deep to reach the tie break, repelling four break points to set up a tie break that the Russian claimed 8-6 to force a decider.

There, Roger found the rhythm on return again, breaking Marat in game three and giving away only five points in the next four service games to bring the match home with ease. Serving for the title at 5-4, Roger 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.