Swiss tennis maestro Roger Federer stepped up his bid for a record ninth Halle grasscourt title with a straight sets victory over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round on Wednesday.
Federer defeated the German 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) and will next face Tunisia's Malek Jaziri for a place in the last eight.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who underwent a knee surgery in February, is yet to win a title this year. He was forced to miss the French Open due to a back injury.
Federer also lost to Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals of the Stuttgart grasscourt event last week.
The 34-year-old Federer, who has now won 52 matches in his Halle career, has yet to win a title in 2016, his longest drought to start a year since he went title-less in 2000.
"I feel after the first round, after having played last week, actually maybe something is really possible here," said Federer.
"I don't want to get too carried away but I feel like if I serve the way I did today and I'm able to step it up just a little bit on the return from the baseline, all of a sudden I'm dangerous for anybody.
"We'll see how it goes. But I take one match at a time and I hope just to keep on playing a bit better match by match."
Japan's world No 6 Kei Nishikori suffered a pre-Wimbledon blow when he was forced to pull out of the Halle tournament with a rib injury.
Nishikori, seeded two in Germany behind Federer and a semi-finalist in 2014 and 2015, was to play Florian Mayer, who was given a walkover into the quarter-finals.
"I'm very sad to not be able to go on playing," said Nishikori, whose status for Wimbledon is not yet certain.
German teenager Alexander Zverev made the quarter-finals when compatriot Benjamin Becker, 16 years his senior, withdrew with an injury at 7-5, 3-0 down.
Zverev will next meet Cypriot veteran Marco Baghdatis who put out Dustin Brown, also of Germany, 7-5, 7-6 (10/8).
Philipp Kohlschreiber, the Stuttgart runner-up, enjoyed a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) win over Spanish clay courter Marcel Granollers.
The Gerry Weber Open in Halle is a tune-up event for Wimbledon, where Federer will be aiming to win his eighth title when the third Grand Slam tournament of the season starts on June 27.
Image: Roger Federer
Photograph: Getty Images