Roger Federer won his first title of the year on Sunday, the world No. 2 beating Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4 in the ATP final at Halle.
It was the 31-year-old Swiss great’s sixth Halle title and the 77th of his career, but first since Cincinnati on the eve of the US Open last year.
His 77th title also saw him draw level with John McEnroe in third position in the all-time career titles list.
After losing the opening set, the former world No. 1 battled back to preserve his perfect record over Youzhny in 15 meetings in more than two hours of play.
“Winning solves everything. I am satisfied with my game, confident, fresh and excited about what lies ahead,” said Federer, who will be chasing a record eighth Wimbledon title from next week.
“There’s always a few things I can work on, but I can think about that between now and the start of Wimbledon,” he said.
For Federer, beaten by Rafael Nadal in his only previous final appearance this year on the clay in Rome and brushed aside by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open quarter-finals, this was the ideal preparation ahead of his Wimbledon defense.
The top seed, who overcame veteran German Tommy Haas in Saturday’s semi-final, was thrilled to finally get off the mark for the year.
“Mikhail has produced a great tournament, that’s why I’m so happy to have won,” he said.
“I had to fight hard to remain in the race in the second set. I served well [he produced 12 aces] and that’s what saved me today,” the Swiss said.
Federer missed five break points in the first set, four of them coming in the opening game, before coming off second best in the tiebreak after one hour of play.
However, he fought back to level the encounter against the Russian, going on to win the match with a love game on his service.
Federer had won this grass court title four years in succession from 2003 to 2006 and again in 2008.
Sunday’s win was his 13th trophy on grass.
Federer, who now has a 43-5 career record at Halle, had been in impressive form at the tournament with a 39-minute, 6-0, 6-0 win over German qualifier Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals, only the second double-bagel of his career.
He then saw off defending champion Tommy Haas in a tight three-setter in the semi-finals.
“To lose the first set twice and still win, it’s a great feeling,” Federer said.
Youzhny had reached the final by beating three seeded players — Kei Nishikori, Philipp Kohlschreiber and then Richard Gasquet, all of them in straight sets.
“I continue to improve my game. Tennis changes every year and I have to change with it if I am to stay at the top,” the 31-year-old Russian said.