Evergreen Roger Federer boosted his hopes of becoming the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the modern era by triumphing at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, for a ninth time on Sunday.
Federer dismissed home hope Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-3 in just 53 minutes as the 35-year-old resumed his domination of a tournament that has become his favoured warm-up for the south-west London grand slam.
The Swiss will head to England this week as one of the favourites, along with French Open winner Rafael Nadal and defending champion Sir Andy Murray, although the Briton’s recent form is patchy.
Federer won the 18th grand slam of his stellar career at the Australian Open in January, five years after his last major title.
An eighth victory at Wimbledon would see Federer eclipse Arthur Ashe, who lifted the trophy aged 31 in 1975, as the oldest men’s singles champion in the Open Era.
Federer sat out Roland Garros and the rest of the clay season in order to preserve himself for the grass and hard-court campaigns, but lost to 39-year-old Tommy Haas on his comeback in Stuttgart earlier this month.
“It has been a difficult year,” he said. “I have spent a lot of time on practice, training and rehab so it is nice to be back on court.”
Federer and Nadal lead the ATP Tour this year with four titles each – Nadal’s most recent coming in Paris, where he became the first player in the post-1967 era to win a single grand slam 10 times.
Nadal’s 15th grand slam title overall established him as second on the men’s all-time list behind Federer.
Murray put injury concerns behind him to forge an encouraging run to the semi-finals at the French Open but lost to world No90 Jordan Thompson in the first round of the Aegon Championship at Queen’s Club last week.
The world No1 is set to play at the Aspall Tennis Classic exhibition event at the Hurlingham Club this week in order to ensure sufficient match-time on grass before beginning his Wimbledon defence next week.