PERTH, January 4, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Germany arrived at this year’s Mastercard Hopman Cup competition in Perth, Australia, as a pre-tournament favorite. With a solid lineup featuring men’s No. 4 Alexander Zverev and women’s No. 2 Angelique Kerber playing solidly all week – both went undefeated during group-play singles – the Germans have shown an eagerness to win their country’s first Hopman Cup title since Boris Becker and Anke Huber lifted the trophy in 1995.
With a 2018 finals rematch against defending champion Switzerland looming, Germany got the job done early against previously undefeated Australia by winning both singles rubbers. The Germans clinched a 2-1 tie victory over the Aussies on Friday night at RAC Arena to win Group A with an undefeated (3-0) slate.
First, Kerber beat No. 15 Ash Barty, 6-4, 6-4, by taking advantage of an early second-set break, then withstanding four break points against her later in the fourth game of the deciding set.
“It’s always a tough battle (with Ash),” Kerber said during an on-court interview with Australia’s Channel 9. “She’s such a great player and an amazing person. She always pushes me to play my best tennis.”
Later, during her press conference, Kerber said she tried “just focusing on my game, being aggressive, taking the game into my hands and serving well.
“It was a good match, I though I played well and moved well. It was just two or three points in the second set that determined the match. There’s some things I know I can still improve on.”
Kerber improved her career Hopman Cup singles win-loss record to 7-0.
Despite losing for the first time in three singles rubbers, Barty was upbeat afterward. “Today was Angie’s day,” she said. “Otherwise, this week’s been great. I’m really happy with my results.”
Next, it was Zverev’s turn to shine on court – and he easily took down No. 46 Matt Ebden, 6-4, 6-3, in just 76 minutes, to clinch the evening’s tie and secure Germany’s advancement to tomorrow’s final.
Team Germany is into the final yet again!
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) 4. Januar 2019
“It’s nice to be back in a final. It’s nice to play Switzerland as well,” Zverev said on court after beating Ebden. Last year, he lost to Roger Federer as Switzerland beat Germany 2-1 in the 2018 Hopman Cup final.
“We lost a very close match last year, and we definitely wanted to get there and compete for the title again,” said Zverev. “And that’s why me and Angie decided after last year’s final that we are definitely going to come back here to Perth.”
With the pressure off following their singles triumphs, Kerber and Zverev lost a highly-entertaining mixed doubles rubber to Barty and Ebden, 4-0, 4-1 (3). Zverev dazzled the RAC Arena crowd with several in-between-the-legs shots during an extended second-set rally with Ebden. It was all in good fun.
“We enjoy playing in front of this crowd,” said Zverev. “That’s why this is my fourth year in a row coming here.”
Earlier Friday, David Ferrer won his last professional match in Australia, defeating Lucas Pouille, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), to lift Spain to a 2-1 victory over France. The tie began when former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain overcame a first-set thigh injury to beat Alize Cornet, 6-1, 6-3. However, Muguruza was unable to continue and was replaced by American rising star Whitney Osuigwe in mixed doubles, which France won, 4-2, 4-2, for its only point of the tie.
After Ferrer’s victory, he said, “It’s going to be the last matches in my career and I try to enjoy every point that I play. For me it’s a pleasure to play here in this centre court at Hopman Cup. I never played but I am happy to have the chance to play one time here.”
Spain finished Group A play with a 1-2 record and France was 0-3.
Hopman Cup notes
• Defending champion Switzerland advanced from Group B on the strength of its 2-1 win-loss record (with wins over Great Britain and the United States coupled with a loss to Greece), which included winning six of nine rubbers. World No. 3 Roger Federer was solid in winning all three of his singles rubbers (against Cameron Norrie, Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas) without dropping a set. Meanwhile, Belinda Bencic went 1-2, and Federer and Bencic teamed to win two of three mixed doubles rubbers.
On Thursday, Federer was asked his thoughts about Switzerland’s chances of successfully defending the Hopman Cup. He said, “This tournament lends itself to exciting tennis. I love it when it comes down to the wire. It’s exciting.”
• Saturday’s Germany-Switzerland final begins at 4 p.m. local time (3 a.m. U.S. Eastern, 8 a.m. GMT, 9 a.m. CET).
Day seven results – Group A
Spain 2, France 1
Garbine Muguruza (ESP) d Alize Cornet (FRA), 6-1 6-3
David Ferrer (ESP) d Lucas Pouille (FRA), 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (2)
Cornet / Pouille (FRA) d Whitney Osuigwe * / Ferrer (ESP), 4-2, 4-2
* Osuigwe replaced Garbine Muguruza, who withdrew due to injury.
Germany 2, Australia 1
Angelique Kerber (GER) d Ash Barty (AUS), 6-4, 6-4
Alexander Zverev (GER) d Matt Ebden (AUS), 6-4, 6-3
Barty / Ebden (AUS) d Kerber / Zverev (GER), 4-0, 4-3 (1)