Since their first encounter in 1999, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt had built a great rivalry that would spread over 15 years and 27 matches, with 18 triumphs for Roger and nine for Lleyton. The Aussie had won seven of the first nine clashes until 2003 when Roger took charge, rattling off 15 straight victories between 2004-2010 and dominating the most significant scene of Majors, Masters 1000 tournaments and Masters Cup, including three finals. That all changed in Halle 2010 when Lleyton scored his first win over Roger in seven years, coming from a set down to notch a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 22 minutes and lift the 28th ATP title. It marked the first defeat in Halle for Roger after 29 straight wins, not losing at one of the favorite tournaments since the 2002 semi-final. It was only the second failure for the Swiss on his beloved grass since 2003 following that epic 2008 Wimbledon final, winning 76 of the last 77 clashes on the green surface before this loss against Lleyton.
Federer had 13 aces, but Hewitt found a way to neutralize rival’s first serve and create nine break chances, converting two to stay in touch with Roger, who had ten break opportunities and seized two. The Aussie defended his second serve more efficiently to emerge as a deserved winner, taking eight points more than Federer to cross the finish line ahead of him. The Swiss had a slight advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes thanks to those service winners but was outplayed in more extended rallies, with Lleyton as the dominant figure in the mid-range exchanges between five and eight shots and those that reached the tenth stroke. Federer kicked off the action with a comfortable hold after a forehand down the line winner and earned two break points in the second game that could have given him an instant lead. Lleyton repelled them for a vital hold and created a break chance at 2-2 when Roger’s forehand landed long.
Roger Federer lost his first match in Halle after 29 wins in the 2010 final.
Federer saved it with a beautiful volley winner to remain in front and grabbed a break in the next one despite Hewitt’s three game points. The Aussie was there to fight and could have pulled the break back a few minutes later after a smash winner, only to be denied by three excellent points from Roger, who moved 5-2 ahead after a volley winner at the net. Serving for the set in game nine, Federer held after deuce to take the opener 6-3 in 37 minutes, looking good to clinch his 30th straight win in Halle. Hewitt had the edge at the start of the second set, breaking Roger in game two when the Swiss failed to control a tough smash. The Aussie saved two break chances in the next game before spraying a forehand error on the third. Thus, Federer was back on the positive side of the scoreboard, erasing two more break points in game four to level the score at 2-2 after forcing Lleyton’s error. Both players served well until 4-4 when the Aussie faced an ultimate challenge, erasing three break points with winners to avoid almost an inevitable defeat.
The set went into a tie break, and Hewitt forged a lead with a mini-break in the third point before building a 4-1 advantage when Roger sprayed a forehand mistake. For a while, the Swiss stayed in touch before netting a backhand to drop the breaker 7-4 and send the encounter into a deciding set. Federer won the 33-shot rally in the opening game of the final set, but Lleyton found a way to break him and grasp an early lead that proved to be crucial at this stage of the battle. A hold at love cemented the advantage for the Aussie, and he created another break chance in game three that could have sent him closer to the finish line. Roger rescued it with a service winner to hang in before working hard in the fifth game again to bring it home after deuce and stay within one break deficit. A forehand winner gave Lleyton a 4-2 advantage and complete control, as he created another break chance in game seven after constant pressure on the rival’s serve.
Roger saved it and escaped with two winners, although he needed a break as soon as possible to prolong his chances. He couldn’t do much on the return, though, as Lleyton closed the eighth game with an unreturned serve that moved him 5-3 up, making another big step towards the finish line. Federer finally made a more relaxed hold in game nine to force Lleyton to serve for the match, and his efforts paid off after creating a break chance in game ten following Hewitt’s double fault. The Aussie stayed calm and fended it off with a strong forehand attack before drawing a match point with a smash winner. He converted it after a super lucky net cord to celebrate the title, his first on grass since Queen’s in 2006 and the first win over Roger after terrible 15 straight losses in the last seven years.