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Federer finds solution for Swiss lead

6 January 2018, by Alex Sharp

Roger Federer stormed back with a 6-7(4) 6-0 6-2 victory against Germany’s soaring star Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev to earn Team Switzerland a 1-0 lead in the Mastercard Hopman Cup 2018 final.

‘I couldn’t be more happy, I thought I played great throughout,” said Federer. “Sascha definitely dropped his level a bit in the second and third sets, but I was able to take advantage of it and most importantly put Team Switzerland ahead.

“I was trying to play as aggressive as possible. I’m maybe better when we’re closer together,” explained the reigning Australian Open champion.

“The court plays fast, so it helps if you approach (the net) and do it the right way. It was working out well, so I thought I’d keep going until I had to fix it. That never happened, so I was able to cruise all the way through.”

It was hailed as the ‘dream’ final at Perth Arena and it certainly lived up to the billing

Federer miscued on a brace of serve and volleys to surrender two break points. Four smooth points from the Swiss dissolved the danger.

Zverev was then instantly on the back foot, but also erased three break points with arrowed passing shots to level the score at 1-1 after a mammoth 14 minutes.

The German was striking his groundstrokes with far more conviction than Friday night in defeat by Thanasi Kokkinakis. One particular forehand return winner fizzed over the net post, down the line and drew an applause from the world No.2.

Federer surged to the net at every opportunity, but couldn’t build the necessary momentum and a tiebreak was required.

A mistimed Federer volley sailed long, forcing both players into laughter. However, Zverev was ready to pounce and lead 3-1 courtesy of a subline scooped lob.

Another crucial backhand passing shot earned three set points. Federer kept the heat on with a deft drop shot, but a clinical one-two strike sent Zverev back to the chair with a set advantage.

Federer was left wondering how he didn’t take the set, having fired down 20 winners past the world No.4.

Zverev prevailed in three pulsating tiebreak sets against the 19-time Grand Slam champion last year in Perth, but relinquished his lead at an alarming rate.

A converted chip and charge oozing with finesse from Federer enabled the Swiss to immediately break at the start of set two.

Federer found his groove, in stark contrast to Zverev, to motor to a 6-0 scoreline in a matter of just 22 minutes.

A break point went begging for Federer at 1-1, before a moment of sheer magic flew off his jet-black Wilson racquet. The ball set up and at shoulder height Federer struck an acute angled forehand cross court winner to snatch away the initiative.

A 24th success at the net enabled Federer to race 3-1 and an astonishing hold to love in exactly 60 seconds posted 5-1 for the 2001 champion at Perth Arena. Victory was sealed in miraculous fashion, a drop shot curling onto the tramline.

“I’ve never finished a match like that, so that was a great feeling,” added an elated Federer, before revealing he has struck the perfect balance in his professional and personal life.

“It’s nice. I work part time now,” quipped the 36-year-old, suggesting he attacks frequently to avoid long baseline rallies. “I work in the morning, I’m off in the afternoons… It’s good being a dad, it’s good being a husband and it’s good being a tennis player.”

Seventeen years after his first Hopman Cup triumph, the Swiss has presented Belinda Bencic with the chance to clinch the title up against Angelique Kerber in the women’s singles.