PERTH, January 3, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Roger Federer has lifted Switzerland into the Mastercard Hopman Cup final for the second consecutive year. On Thursday night, the Swiss maestro’s 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) win over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece clinched the top spot for Switzerland in Group B before a sellout crowd at Perth’s RAC Arena.
Later, Greece rallied to beat the Swiss 2-1 as Maria Sakkari defeated Belinda Bencic, 6-3, 6-4, then teamed with Tsitsipas to win the mixed doubles rubber over Federer and Bencic, 4-3 (4), 2-4, 4-3 (3). Although both Switzerland and Greece finished group play with identical 2-1 win-loss records, the Greeks needed a 3-0 sweep over the Swiss to advance to Saturday’s final. Now, Switzerland awaits the outcome of Friday’s Group A showdown between host Australia and Germany, both 2-0.
The World No. 3 Federer, who earlier beat No. 90 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 39 Frances Tiafoe of the United States without dropping a set, finished group play undefeated, and his straight-set triumph over the 20-year-old Tsitsipas, ranked No. 15, showed why he remains one of best and most fit players on tour at age 37.
“He could be my son,” Federer joked after his win, commenting about the difference in age between him and Tsitsipas. “He did a nice job. I think we both played well without too many mistakes.
“I learned about his game. From my game, I didn’t learn anything.
“For me, it’s about maintaining a good level of play. I’m happy where my game is at. And I was impressed with what I saw from Stefanos.”
Down 4-1 in the first-set tie-break, the 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer won four straight points before Tsitsipas double faulted to give him a set-point opportunity, which he converted.
Both players dominated on their serve as eight of the first 11 service games were won at love. Then, when Federer was unable to convert any of his three break-point chances in the second set, it forced another tie-break. Federer won on his second match-point opportunity. He finished the 1 hour and 33 minute match with 28 winners and outpointed Tsitsipas 84-72.
“You never play to lose; you always play to win,” said Federer on court after beating Tsitsipas. “Stefanos played a great match. … I enjoy playing against the younger guys to be honest. They bring something different, something I may not have seen before. That was the case today. It was good fun. I really enjoyed myself.”
The reaction says it all 🤗
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) 3. Januar 2019
Earlier, Great Britain defeated the United States 2-1. The only point for the Americans came as Serena Williams beat No. 97 Katie Boulter, 6-1, 7-6 (2), to cap an undefeated week for the former World No. 1. Earlier in the tournament, she beat both Sakkari and Bencic.
“She’s a champion, so to actually share the court with her is such a privilege and of course we’re really happy to get the win,” said Boulter, who teamed with Norrie to win in mixed doubles over Williams and Tiafoe.
Hopman Cup notes
• With the Australian Open just 11 days away, No. 16 Serena Williams completed her tune up for the year’s first Grand Slam in fine form by going 3-0 in Hopman Cup singles. She hit 20 winners during her 6-1, 7-6 (2) win over Katie Boulter of Great Britain on Thursday afternoon.
“It was perfect; it’s just like this in Melbourne. It’s the exact same sun and it gives me so many problems,” Williams was quoted by the Hopman Cup website as saying. “After you serve, you are blind for the next two points.
“It was good to play three matches here, singles, not to mention the mixed doubles.”
• A long-awaited matchup with Roger Federer is something Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of the rising stars in tennis, relished in competing at the Hopman Cup this week. Before taking the court against his idol Federer, Tsitsipas said, “It’s going to be exciting. I used to watch him on YouTube … the rivalry between him and Rafa. Most of his Wimbledon and US Open finals.
“I respect him a lot. He’s the guy I respect the most on the tour. He’s going to give me a hard time on the court.”
As it happened, Federer beat Tsitsipas 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4). Afterward, Tsitsipas said, “It was unbelievable. I’ve been dreaming of this moment for a very long time. It’s the best feeling on Earth, even though I lost. There’s a lot of things I can learn from that match. It was a really good lesson today.”
Day six results – Group B
Great Britain 2, United States 1
Cameron Norrie (GBR) d Frances Tiafoe (USA), 7-6 (4), 6-0
Serena Williams (USA) d Katie Boulter (GBR), 6-1, 7-6 (2)
Boulter / Norrie (GBR) d Williams / Tiafoe (USA), 3-4 (2), 4-3 (4), 4-1
Greece 2, Switzerland 1
Roger Federer (SUI) d Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4)
Maria Sakkari (GRE) d Belinda Bencic (SUI), 6-3, 6-4
Sakkari / Tsitsipas (GRE) d Bencic / Federer (SUI), 4-3 (4), 2-4, 4-3 (3)