Tennis

Federer rallies for first title of '13

Switzerland's Roger Federer returns the ball to Mikhail Youzhny
Roger Federer returns the ball to Mikhail Youzhny in the final.
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HALLE, Germany (AP)

Roger Federer found the perfect place to end his title drought - a small town in western Germany that has a big tennis stadium and a street named Roger-Federer-Allee leading to it.

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Federer left Halle a winner again Sunday, ending a 10-month run of 11 tournaments without a title, an eternity by his standards. The 31-year-old Swiss great overcame a sluggish start to beat unseeded Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 at the Gerry Weber Open for his first title since Cincinnati in August.

Returning to grass in his favorite warm-up for Wimbledon, the top-seeded Federer looked lethargic until the middle of the second set against a player he had never lost to in 14 previous matches. It was the first final on the tour this year involving players 30 or older.

''I've won a lot but not so much in the last 10 months, although I feel I'd been playing well,'' Federer said. ''But the others were playing better.''

Federer earned his sixth title at Halle in 11 appearances (eight finals) and his first since 2008. Four of Federer's seven Wimbledon trophies have come after victories in Halle - including his first Halle and Wimbledon championships in 2003.

The former top-ranked player, who is now No. 3, won his 77th career title, pulling him even with John McEnroe at third on the all-time list. Jimmy Connors won 109 and Ivan Lendl 94. Federer will be looking to extend his record of 17 Grand Slam championships when he defends his title at Wimbledon.

''I feel fit; I feel confident. I'm excited about what's to come,'' Federer said. ''I'm very pleased with how I played this week.''

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With Federer starting to hit shots with confidence, the turning point of the match came in the eighth game of the second set, when Youzhny double-faulted on break point. The Swiss star then hit a perfect backhand passing shot to go up 4-3 in the third set. He held for 5-3 with a smash and fired a service winner to seal his victory after just over 2 hours.

Federer has a big following at the Halle tournament. The fans gave him a standing ovation, while his wife, Mirka, let out a sigh of relief while keeping an eye on their twin daughters.

''The difference was that he was better today - he's been better all his life,'' the 30-year-old Youzhny said.

Federer finished with 12 aces.

''The first set was very close; it could have gone either way. I had to fight very hard to stay in the second. My serve saved me today,'' Federer said. ''At the end I was just a bit steadier.''

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