Same quartet, the same nations. The Hopman Cup final is a repeat of the enthralling 2018 trophy showdown in Perth with Germany targeting revenge over Switzerland.
Swiss talisman Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic surged into Saturday night’s final and they will tackle the formidable German duo.
Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber booked their final ticket with a 2-1 scoreline facing Australia at the RAC Arena on Friday night.
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— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 4, 2019
Germany are seeking a first Hopman Cup triumph since 1995 and confidence will be soaring.
World No.4 Zverev led Federer in last year’s Hopman Cup final, before disintegrating in a 6-7(4) 6-0 6-2 defeat by the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
However, 12 months on the Next Gen leader is quite a different prospect. A steady 2018 culminated in a scintillating title run at the ATP Finals in London in November.
Significantly, Zverev ruled the season finale with back-to-back victories over Federer and world No.1 Novak Djokovic. His serve was scorching and coach Ivan Lendl has now crafted his net play into a weapon.
Alongside the 21-year-old stands world No.2 Kerber, who has commanded proceedings to win all seven of her singles matches in the past two years at the Hopman Cup. That includes navigating past Bencic to level last year’s final, before the Swiss team prevailed in the decisive doubles match.
Congratulations to Team Germany on again reaching the #HopmanCup final ???????? ????
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 4, 2019
“Angie shouldn’t do much different because she won her singles last year. So I take the blame all on me,” declared Zverev said after defeating Australia’s Matthew Ebden 6-4 6-3 in 76 minutes on Friday night.
“We only got to the finals last year because of Angie. I actually didn’t do much. Hopefully I can do it a little different and give Roger a better match than I did last year.
“I hope it’s going to be just as exciting as last year, but just going the other way.”
Federer, the reigning Australian Open champion, is well aware of Zverev’s enhanced threat this season.
“I think Zverev’s coming in better prepared this year than last year,” admitted Federer in Perth.
“Last year he did a ton of fitness coming into the Hopman Cup, so maybe his game was still lacking a little bit.
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) January 3, 2019
“I think that’s not the case this time around and he’s a different player.”
Despite Germany’s ranking prowess, Federer will lead his country onto court with a flawless record, beating Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Cameron Norrie in straight sets so far this Hopman Cup.
“For me, it’s about maintaining a good level of play. I’m happy where my game is at,” added the 37-year-old.
The Swiss maestro is boosted by consecutive Australian Open triumphs plus seven straight wins in Hopman Cup singles, meaning Federer has won 21 straight matches down under. Retaining the title in Perth would be the perfect preparation before heading back to Melbourne Park.
“It would be great,” stated Federer, hoping to claim a fourth Hopman Cup for his nation. “I think you could see on both our faces what (winning last year) meant to us. It definitely kick-started the season.”
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 3, 2019
Kerber gave Germany the perfect start on Friday night with an efficient 6-4 6-4 victory over home favourite Ash Barty to put the Germans on course for a final spot.
“We are both really excited to reach the final again to get a second chance against Belinda and Roger,” said the left-hander.
“We are are both really proud to play Hopman Cup for Germany and we will try our best to win the title.”
Kerber recovered from a turbulent 2017 to rediscover her game last year, with the Wimbledon crown confirming her return to the top.
So for world No.54 Bencic, the task on Saturday night will be a stern examination of her pre-season progress.
Serena Williams and Maria Sakkari inflicted defeat on the 21-year-old this week, but Bencic can be buoyed by a 3-1 record in combat with Kerber.
An intriguing 6-3 7-6(5) encounter at Wimbledon went in Kerber’s favour and projects a finely-poised battle for a pivotal point in Perth.
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