“It’s amazing,” hailed Alexander Zverev. “I’m going to give Angie all the credit, I nearly screwed up the whole thing.
“The singles was one thing, but in the mixed I played a horrible first set. She kept pushing me and kept saying ‘come on we can do this.'”
Team Germany produced a last-gasp 1-4 4-1 4-3(3) victory in the mixed doubles to narrowly edge past Australia into the Mastercard Hopman Cup 2018 final to face Team Switzerland.
“I haven’t played my best yet,” declared Zverev, ahead of an intriguing clash with Swiss maestro Roger Federer on Saturday. “Hopefully I can get better. Today I was better than the first two singles, but it’s far from perfect and that is why I’m off to practice now at 11.30pm. I just have to prepare as best I can for Roger.”
Zverev will draw confidence from last year’s 7-6 (1) 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4) Hopman Cup triumph against the 19-time Grand Slam champion, but insists he has to be at his best.
“Last year I had been practising for a lot longer, this year I’m still in off-season preparation. You can’t really compare the two, but I’m playing against somebody who feels the ball well wherever he goes, it doesn’t matter how much he practises. Hopefully it will be another competitive one tomorrow.”
Heading onto court for the mixed the equation was simple. Two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber was in the zone to oust Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-2, before a resurgent Thanasi Kokkinakis clinched a 5-7 7-6 (4) 6-4 thriller against world No.4 Zverev. That meant the German duo had to claim the doubles, otherwise the final ticket would fall at the feet of Team Belgium.
The turbulent match split the opening two sets, before Germany surrendered a break lead in the decider. Remarkably, the place in the final came down to a Fast4 tiebreak.
Kokkinakis cut away an acute volleyed winner and continued his singles momentum with a bullet backhand return winner to send the home team 3-1 in front.
However, Kerber stretched for a wide Kokkinakis serve and managed to curl in a sensational forehand return to help draw the dramatic conclusion level.
Zverev and Gavrilova became embroiled in an elongated rally with each other, before Zverev caught Kokkinakis off guard at the net. That was the catalyst, as the fired up Germans finally secured their final spot.
“It was a really nervous third tiebreak set,” claimed Kerber. “It was up and down with a lot of nervous rallies but in the end we won and we are both very excited to play the final.”
Germany last lifted the Hopman Cup 23 years ago with Boris Becker and Anke Huber in their ranks for a 3-0 victory over Ukraine.
“For the country it’s always an honour to play,” added Kerber. “We will do our best. We know it will be hard. We’ve won three mixed doubles so far, so we shall see.”