Roger Federer reaffirmed his status as the man to beat at Wimbledon next month as he defeated Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (-7-3) to win the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

Roger Federer Stuttgart
Roger Federer celebrates after winning the 2018 Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart by defeating Milos Raonic in the final. (Image: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski)

The victory also allowed Federer to regain the world No. 1 ranking over French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who did not play in the tournament.

Long Layoff Doesnt Hurt Federer

While the Mercedes Cup is a small event, it was important for Federer to show his form to the tennis world after sitting out the clay-court season for the second consecutive year. He did just that, wrapping up the final in 78 minutes to claim his 98th career title, as well as his 18th on grass.

Its a wonderful feeling, Federer said after the tournament. I fought hard. When you finally manage it, the joy is even greater.

Federer only had to win four matches to earn the title, with the toughest test coming in the semifinal against Australias Nick Kyrgios. After Kyrgios won the first set in a tiebreaker, Federer rallied to win the second and third, with the match coming down to a third-set tiebreak that Federer won 7-5.

After that battle, Kyrgios had nothing but praise for the 36-year-old Swiss legend.

I mean, he just looks efficient, Kyrgios told reporters before his first round match at the Fever-Tree Championships, a grass-court event at the Queens Club in London. He looks so comfortable on the grass. I have never played anyone with a better sort of serve and first ball, especially on the grass.

Race to Be No. 1

Federer is also playing in a grass-court tournament this weekend, as he heads to the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. Federer has nine career titles in Halle, and has won the tournament four of the last five years, including in 2017.

Hell need to repeat that feat in order to defend his points from last season and retain the No. 1 ranking in the world. The fight for the top spot between Federer and Nadal is close enough that it could potentially change hands almost every week, something Federer thinks is great for the sport of tennis.

Its great for the fans that its been going back and forth, Federer said after beating Kyrgios in the semifinal at Stuttgart, which was enough to guarantee he would pass Rafa in the rankings. Its quite fun at the moment.

While Federer may not be the overwhelming favorite on grass that Nadal is on clay, he is still a dominant force on his best surface. According to Ladbrokes, he is an even money choice to earn his 10th title in Halle, with world No. 3 Alexander Zverev (5/1) who lost to Federer in the final last year being the most likely opponent to cause an upset.

Federer is similar favored at Wimbledon. He is a 6/4 pick to win his ninth title at the All England Club, with Nadal (5/1), Novak Djokovic (7/1), Zverev (10/1) and Marin Cilic (10/1) being among those expected to give the 20-time Grand Slam winner a run for his money.

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