He will now face rapidly rising talent Karen Khachanov, who won his all-Russian quarter-final against Andrey Rublev 7-6 (8) 4-6 6-3 to reach his first tour semi-final of the year. "And playing against me, all are always very motivated", Federer told the Halle Open website. The German Mayer is the defending champion.
The second set went with serve until Federer scampered across to fire a forehand at the body of Zverev, which he had no chance of returning and the Swiss broke to lead 5-4 before serving out the match as he eyes a fourth title of the year with Wimbledon fast approaching.
Mayer failed to convert two break points early in the second set, while Federer took his opportunity in the fifth game to edge towards victory. While Zverev went 4-3 up, Federer reeled off the final four points to clinch the set.
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The world No38 is looking at No34 next week but if he beats Federer, he may claim a seeding at Wimbledon next week. "I'm glad I could win in two sets and have the feeling I played well".
The outgunned world number 134 resorted to trick shots late in the second set, briefly befuddling Federer with forehand slices, followed by a disguised cross-court forehand victor, which he swatted past the favourite to the delight of the crowd. "He plays a bit different on the serve and the forehand, which is different to the regular forehand technique we see".
"I don't know him that well yet so it's a match where I'll most likely focus on my own game", Federer said of facing the Russian in the semifinals. The 35-year-old tennis great is surging in 2017.