German teenager Alexander Zverev caused a major upset as he beat eight-time champion and top seed Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Halle grasscourt tournament on Saturday.
Error-strewn Federer’s vulnerability on his favourite surface could perhaps be explained by a back injury that made the 34-year-old miss last month’s French Open, but this was not the build-up to Wimbledon that the Swiss ace wanted.
The 19-year-old Zverev triumphed 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 to reach only his second ATP Tour final after being beaten by Austria’s Dominic Thiem on clay in Nice last month.
Another title clash with Thiem was foiled by Florian Mayer, who handed the Austrian a 6-3, 6-4 loss to set an all-German final.
The veteran Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam winner, won the last three Halle Open tournaments but he met his match in the spirited world number 38.
Just over a week before the start of Wimbledon, it was the second semi-final defeat in a row on grass for the world number three after Thiem beat him in Stuttgart last week.
Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2012 and given the form of world number one Novak Djokovic, Federer’s current level would unlikely see that run come to an end.
The 1.98-metre (6’6”) Zverev is already guaranteed to improve his career-high ranking in Monday’s new list to inside the top 30.
He took the first set on a tiebreak having lost just four points on serve and firing 14 winners.
Federer earned the first break of the match at 5-5 in the second with a sublime drop shot before finishing off the set with two service winners.
But a backhand error from Federer gave Zverev the crucial break in the sixth game of the deciding set.
Federer was unable to battle back from there and he failed to reach the final in Halle for the first time in his last 11 attempts.
Zverev finished with 39 winners and eight aces while saving six of seven break points.
It was Federer’s first defeat to a teenager in almost 10 years, since current world number two Andy Murray beat him at the Cincinnati Masters in 2006.