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Kerber, Zverev bring their best  

5 January 2019, by Vivienne Christie

Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev have already established careers that most players will only ever dream about.

Kerber is a recent world No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion; Zverev, still just 21, recently added the elite ATP Finals trophy to the 10 he’s so far collected on the ATP Tour.

But you don’t build such superstar careers without establishing new targets – and the Germans have a mighty one as they take on Switzerland to claim the Mastercard Hopman Cup.

It’s a repeat of the 2018 final, when Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic secured victory in the live mixed doubles. That result strengthens the German’s desire to win this week.

“Our goal from the beginning of the week, we talked about it after last year’s loss, that we definitely want to come back to win it,” said Zverev.

The individual milestones that followed that finals appearance suggests it’s a plan that’s well within reach.

For Kerber, there was a return to the Grand Slam winners’ circle at Wimbledon, also boosting the 30-year-old’s rise back to world No.2.

Zverev ended his 2018 season with victories over Federer and Novak Djokovic to win in London. The first man to defeat both of those players at that elite tournament, Zverev was also the youngest winner of the event in 10 years.

“It’s one of the biggest tournaments that we have in tennis so for me it was unbelievable winning the Masters and beating those top players that we have. You’re only playing top eight players,” said Zverev.

“I was very happy with the way it ended but obviously I didn’t change my off-season too much. I was trying still trying to work hard and trying to improve on a lot of different things.”

Those improvements have shown this week at RAC Arena, Zverev winning all three round-robin singles rubbers against David Ferrer, Lucas Pouille and Matt Ebden.

Kerber can claim an even more impressive record­­­­, with the world No.2 on a seven-match winning streak after sweeping each singles rubber in 2018 and claiming convincing wins over Garbine Muguruza, Alize Cornet and Ash Barty this week.

It suggests that a return to the world No.1 ranking she first achieved in the 2016 season is within reach for Kerber – although she insists she’s focusing only on each match.

“You know, I’m really not looking to the ranking. I mean, if you are playing good and if you have good results ,I think the ranking will come,” she said.

“Of course, I mean, it would be nice to be back (as) the No.1 player but it’s still a long way. “

Zverev, too, is reluctant to be too specific, explaining that his measure of success this year will be the enjoyment of his time on tour.

“I just want to go out there and really enjoy being on the centre court and really enjoy being on the big stage. Enjoy playing against the best players,” he said. “This is my main focus for this year.”

The 21-year-old will experience all that as he takes to the court against Federer, adding confidence coming from the three matches he’s claimed in six tour matches against the great.

While that elevates the overall interest in today’s meeting, Zverev is quick to provide a broader view.

“It’s not only between me and Roger. It’s about the team,” he insisted. “It’s about getting the win and last year we were so close, (only) losing the deciding match.”

Targeting a third title for Germany, and their first in 24 years, Kerber is also taking a team approach.

“It would mean a lot,” she said. “We are both really proud to play Hopman Cup for Germany and we will try our best to win the title.”