'This is unreal': Tennis fans erupt over two-year Roger Federer first

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·Sports Editor
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Roger Federer, pictured here in his first match on grass in two years in Halle.
Roger Federer won his first match on grass in two years in Halle. Image: Getty/Tennis TV

Roger Federer has played and won his first match on grass since losing the 2019 Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic.

The Swiss legend moved into the second round of the ATP grass-court tournament in Halle on Monday with a straight-sets win over qualifier Ilya Ivashka.

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Federer, who turns 40 in August, had few problems in his first match this season on grass to seal a 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 first-round win over Belarusian Ivashka, ranked 90th in the world.

"There is room for improvement, but I am happy with my first game here on grass. I feel good," said Federer, currently ranked eighth in the world.

The 20-time grand slam champion hadn't played on grass since losing an epic 2019 Wimbledon final in five sets to Djokovic, a match in which he wasted championship points.

Federer underwent double knee surgery last year and came to Halle having withdrawn from the French Open ahead of his fourth-round match to focus on the grass-court season and Wimbledon.

"I think as the match went on I started to create more opportunities and started to also calm my nerves a bit," Federer said on court after Monday's win.

"I'm very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first one."

Bidding to win his 11th title in Halle, Federer is using the event to tune up for his bid to win a ninth title at Wimbledon, which starts June 28.

He had no problems moving round the court and when the first set went to a tie-breaker, he raced into a 6-1 lead then converted his fourth set point.

Federer broke Ivashka's serve to lead 6-5 in the second, converting his fourth match point to book his place in the second round after one hour and 36 minutes.

Tennis fans were delighted to see Federer back on his favourite surface after nearly two years.

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Tsitsipas announces withdrawal after family tragedy

Earlier on Monday, organisers said Stefanos Tsitsipas would not be playing "for personal reasons".

The 22-year-old had early revealed on social media that his beloved grandmother had died just minutes before the start of Sunday's French Open final which he lost in five sets against Djokovic, after being two sets up.

"Five minutes before entering the court my very beloved grandmother lost her battle for life," Tsitsipas wrote on Instagram.

"A wise woman whose faith in life, and willingness to give and provide can't be compared to any other human being that I have ever met.

"It's important to have more people like her in this world. Because people like her make you come alive. They make you dream."

Roger Federer and Ilya Ivashka, pictured here after their match in Halle.
Roger Federer and Ilya Ivashka after their match in Halle. (Photo by Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Halle tournament boasts five top-10 players including Federer and local star Alexander Zverev, who lost to Tsitsipas on Friday in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Corentin Moutet won his first-round match after Belgian seventh-seed David Goffin withdrew with injury at the start of the third set with the scores at 1-6, 7-5.

Australian Jordan Thompson is also into the second round after a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) win over German Daniel Altmaier.

Sixth-seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain also bowed out when he lost his first-round match 6-3, 7-6 (7/0) to Sebastian Korda of the USA.

with agencies

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