Halle: It's nearly mid-June and Roger Federer is still without a title in 2013. Back on grass in one of his favorite tournaments, Federer is confident his best is yet to come.
Federer is top-seeded in Halle, one of the grass-court build-up tournaments for Wimbledon, where he has won seven titles and where he will be the defending champion. Four of those Wimbledon titles came after Federer had also won the warm-up event in Halle.
"Halle is one of my favorite places on the tour, and being successful there makes it even more likable," said Federer, who will be seeking his sixth title in the cozy event, where players step on court practically from their hotel rooms.
Federer is coming off a quarterfinal loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the French Open last week.
"Paris has little to do with Halle or Wimbledon, but looking back I am really disappointed with my match against Tsonga," Federer said. "There are days like that but fortunately there haven't been so many in my career and I hope there won't be that many to come."
Federer reached 10 straight Grand Slam finals from 2005-07, winning eight titles. He also appeared in eight major finals from 2008-10, winning four. But since that run ended, Federer has played in two of the last 13 Slam title matches, winning one at Wimbledon last year.
At 31, the winner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles could be slowing down as shown by his run without a title through the first half of the year, which also saw him nurse a back injury.
"I didn't really expect to necessarily win a lot of titles, and I thought I played well in Rome and Paris, until the match with Tsonga," Federer said Monday at the start of the Halle tournament. He lost the Rome final in two quick sets to Rafael Nadal, who pulled out of the Halle event to rest after his eighth French Open title.
"I now feel that the best time for me is still to come in the second half of the year. It's a very important phase of the year, leading to Wimbledon and the North American swing with the U.S. Open," the last Grand Slam of the year, Federer said.
"To win here (in Halle) would be a good build-up for Wimbledon," he said.
Federer will also play doubles, teaming up with German veteran Tommy Haas, who beat him in last year's Halle final. Federer hasn't played doubles for two years.
But since arriving in Halle from Paris on Friday and practicing for three days, Federer felt he could get in some doubles matches as well, since he won't be scheduled to play singles before Wednesday.
"I've seldom played doubles on the tour, there is always that threat of injury, it just wasn't as much fun. But now I am in the mood to play some doubles, change it up a little. Hopefully, it may even help me in the singles," Federer said.
Federer leads the field, which also includes second-seeded Richard Gasquet, third-seeded Haas and No. 4 Kei Nishikori.
In the opening singles Monday, qualifier Jan Hernych defeated Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2, Mikhail Youzhny beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-2 and eighth-seeded Florian Mayer swept past qualifier Martin Fischer 6-2, 6-2.