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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Zverev can make the most of good draw

Germany's Alexander Zverev
1 of 1

Sky Sports 2, from 10am Monday

Roger Federer lost out in a battle of veterans against Tommy Haas in the second round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart last week but he will be aiming for a much longer run at Halle where he has won the title a record eight times.

The Swiss returned from a self-imposed ten-week break with high hopes of hitting the ground running but was well below his best and succumbed to a 6-2 6-7 6-4 defeat to a highly motivated Haas, who will retire at the end of the season.

Federer had trained normally for weeks going into Stuttgart but was clearly nowhere near match-ready and will be hoping to benefit from more court time at Halle.

He has an easier start this time, taking on Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round, but there are some dangerous players in the top half of the draw, including defending champions Florian Mayer, world number nine Kei Nishikori and big-serving Croatian veteran Ivo Karlovic.

At his best Federer would breeze past any of them but there have to be doubts after Stuttgart and it seems sensible to sidestep the Fed Express and focus on the other side of the draw.

World number ten Alexander Zverev looks the standout fast-court player in the bottom half and appears to have a good draw.
He may face a tricky second-round clash against veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, a decent grass-court player and two-time Halle finalist.

But Zverev, who reached the final as a 19-year-old last year, should have the game to topple Kohlschreiber and may not have to defeat a single top-ten player to go all the way to the final.

French Open semi-finalist and world number eight Dominic Thiem is the only other top ten player in the bottom half and he is much more at home on slower surfaces. The Austrian won a grass-court title at Stuttgart last year but has won just nine of his 17 matches on the surface.

A bigger danger to Zverev could be Richard Gasquet – a potential semi-final opponent – who has an excellent record on grass, winning 56 of 82 matches.

Gasquet has won two grass titles at Nottingham (2005 and 2006) and was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2007 and 2015. He has a tricky start against countryman Gael Monfils but looks each-way value.

A Zverev
2pts 13-2 Coral, Ladbrokes
R Gasquet
1pt each-way 25-1 Betfair, Paddy Power

Federer had trained normally for weeks going into Stuttgart but was clearly nowhere near match-ready
E.W. Terms
Sky bet