Roger Federer has made a winning start into the grass court season in Halle while French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas withdrew on short notice.
Federer, 39, was given a fight by 90th-ranked Belarus qualifier Ilya Ivashka on Monday before the 10-time champion secured a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 victory in 1 hour 35 minutes.
The 20-time grand slam champion from Switzerland had not played on grass since losing an epic 2019 Wimbledon final in five sets against world No.1 Novak Djokovic during which he wasted match points.
He underwent double knee surgery last year and came to Halle having withdrawn ahead of his French Open fourth-round match last week because his main priority is Wimbledon which starts in a fortnight.
“I think as the match went on I started to create more opportunities and started to also calm my nerves a bit,” Federer said on court after Monday’s win, according to the ATP website.
“I’m very happy and excited that I was able to get through the first one.”
While Federer advanced, organisers said that Tsitsipas would not be playing “for personal reasons.”
The 22-year-old had early Monday revealed on social media that his beloved grandmother had died just minutes before the start of Sunday’s French Open final which he lost in five sets against Djokovic, after being two sets up.
The Halle tournament boasts five top-10 players including Federer and local star Alexander Zverev who lost to Tsitsipas on Friday in the Paris semi-finals.