(Reuters) - Roger Federer celebrated returning to the top of the world rankings by defeating Milos Raonic in the final of the Stuttgart Open on Sunday and lifting the 98th tour-level title of his garlanded career.
The 36-year-old, who by reaching the final had already guaranteed his return to world No.1, supplanting Rafael Nadal when the new rankings are released on Monday, continued his domination over the Canadian with a 6-4 7-6(3) victory.
Federer’s 78-minute win, sealing his first Stuttgart triumph, was the perfect tonic for the Swiss in the build-up to defending his Wimbledon crown, having extended his unbeaten 12-month sequence in grasscourt matches to 16.
“It’s a great comeback for me,” said Federer, who was playing his first tournament after an 11-week break, having sidestepped the entire claycourt season.
“I’m really happy. I thought it was a good final from my side. I think I played very well throughout the tournament, actually, having not played for a while.
“Maybe I was a little bit better on the bigger points. Of course I’m so happy to have won here, finally, in Stuttgart.”
Federer, who beat Raonic en route to winning Wimbledon last year, broke his opponent’s powerful serve just once in the third game — but that was a major feat in itself as the Canadian had entered the final having won all 41 of his service games.
With his own delivery proving unbreachable — he dropped serve only twice all week — it was enough for Federer to claim the first set.
In a decisive tiebreak after no breaks in the second set, a double fault from Raonic at 3-4 paved the way for Federer to claim the 18th grasscourt trophy of his career.
On Monday, Federer will begin a record-extending 310th week at the top of the rankings and a third spell this year alone as No.1 before seeking to defend his Halle grasscourt crown.
He will need to triumph once again at his favourite pre-Wimbledon haunt in Germany this week if he is to prevent Nadal returning to No.1 in their continuing see-saw battle.
If he manages to do so, Federer will then seek a landmark 100th career title at Wimbledon where he will also be attempting to extend his record of men’s singles crowns to nine.
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar