Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic shine to retain Hopman Cup - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic shine to retain Hopman Cup

Federer and Bencic withstood a strong challenge from Zverev and Kerber to win the Hopman Cup for the second year in a row.

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Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic played sparkling tennis to beat Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 4-0 1-4 4-3(4) in the deciding mixed doubles rubber and retain the Hopman Cup in Perth.

The tournament’s exciting conclusion was set up by a 6-4 6-2 win for Federer over Zverev and a 6-4 7-6(6) win for Kerber over Bencic.

Federer and Bencic were virtually flawless in the opening set. They secured two easy holds, punished some lacklustre serving from Zverev to earn an early break, and then took Kerber’s serve apart to clinch it 4-0 in just 13 minutes.

To their immense credit, the German pair responded superbly. They served a lot better and broke both Swiss players’ serves to turn things around completely and win the second set 4-1.

As so often in three-set matches, the decider was much closer. After Zverev handed Federer and Bencic an early break with a double-fault, all four players held serve in consecutive games for the only time in the match to move the score along to 3-2 to the Swiss.

That left Federer with the chance to serve for the title, and most viewers would have expected him to take it. However, Zverev and Kerber had other ideas.

First, the German woman produced a stunning forehand around the net post to win the opening point. Then Zverev pounced on a weak volley form the Swiss man to make it 0-30.

The Germans made it 0-40 when Zverev hit a superb low return to set Kerber up for a decisive volley, and then sealed the break two points later when Federer netted a backhand volley.

Federer and Bencic win thrilling tie-break

In the tie-break, the Germans combined well to earn an immediate mini-break, only for the Swiss to peg them back immediately with some good tactics of their own.

Bencic then fired down a big serve which Zverev was unable to return, before the German hit a backhand volley into Federer’s knee to level the score again.

The Swiss got the better of a wonderful rally to move ahead, but a big serve from Zverev kept the final on a knife-edge at 3-3.

And it was the Germans who earned the first chance to win it when Zverev hit a superb return that bisected Federer and Bencic.

However, the Swiss were far from done. Federer sent an excellent serve out wide and then put away an easy volley to make it 4-4 and championship point for both teams.

What a point it turned out to be. Zverev returned a wide serve from Federer and then the Germans tried everything to get the ball past the Swiss at the net.

But Federer and Bencic kept their cool, and it was the 21-year-old who got the champagne moment when she hit a low volley that Zverev could only re-direct into the net.

Federer produces his best to beat Zverev

Earlier in the day, Federer and Zverev set the standard with a high-quality opening singles match which began with an exhibition of great serving, as both players held with ease in the first five games.

In a sign of things to come, the Swiss then put the German under plenty of pressure in his next two service games.

Zverev dug in to hold both times, but Federer eventually broke down his resistance in the tenth game of the opening set to take it 6-4.

The 20-time Grand Slam threatened to run away with the second set when he charged into a 3-0 lead. However, the World No.4 demonstrated his willingness to fight. He secured two gutsy holds to just about stay in the contest at 2-5.

Unfortunately for Zverev, Federer found another gear. He played some excellent shots to break the German again and seal a straight-sets win.

Kerber holds off strong Bencic challenge

The standard remained high during an absorbing women’s singles encounter between Kerber and Bencic.

It was the German who made a stronger start as she opened up a 3-0 lead in the first set. But the Swiss then gained a foothold by earning a break in game four and holding serve in game five.

Bencic almost made it three games in a row when she had three chances to break in game six. However, she was unable to take any of them and it ultimately cost her as Kerber secured two far easier holds to finish off the set 6-4.

The second set was terrific entertainment. The Swiss raised her level and pushed the three-time Grand Slam champion all the way.

Although she dropped serve in the opening game, Bencic never let it bother her and eventually broke back in game ten.

By this stage, the Swiss was clearly the aggressor, as most points ended when she either hit a winner or made an unforced error.

Unfortunately for Bencic, she made too many of the latter in game nine and lost her serve again. However, she bounced back immediately to force a tie-break.

At this point, Kerber’s experience showed. She worked the Swiss around the court intelligently to establish a 6-4 lead, and then refused to panic when Bencic drew level.

First, she produced a brilliant backhand return that was too hot for the World No.54 to handle. Then she forced Bencic wide to set herself up to hit the backhand winner that sealed victory.

Davis Cup

ITF and Kosmos: “Our Davis Cup Is Good For Tennis”

Kosmos is ready to stuff the pockets of players and federations with a lot of fresh money, but the battle with ATP and Laver Cup could destroy the sport

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Javier Alonso (center), CEO Kosmos Tennis, talks to the press at a working breakfast in Melbourne (Photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

With the ATP Cup officially poised to challenge Davis Cup as the leading team event in tennis, Gerard Piqué’s team at Kosmos, the investment fund now managing the 120-year-old competition, has decided to ramp up its efforts to promote their competition and ensure the success of their 25-year, 3-billion-dollar investment. During the first days of the Australian Open the ITF has invited a small group of journalists to a Melbourne hotel for an informal discussion about the new Davis Cup format with some of the top executives from Kosmos.

While ITF President David Haggerty was in Lausanne discussing with IOC President Thomas Bach how Olympic eligibility criteria would need to be modified in light of the new format for Davis Cup (we were told that seven formal letters have been sent from the ITF to the IOC in relation to this matter) for the 2020-2024 period (it has already been established that current criteria will remain in place to determine eligibility for Tokyo 2020), it was up to Kosmos Tennis CEO Javier Alonso, Chief Competition Officer Galo Blanco (former ATP player and coach) and ITF Senior Executive Director for Professional Tennis Kris Dent to entertain a dozen journalist for a working breakfast at the Hotel Pullman on the Park in Melbourne, just steps away from Rod Laver Arena.

Despite the façade of extreme confidence in their business model, both from a financial and from a tennis standpoint, it was impossible for them to deny the existence of several issues to be sorted out, starting from the position of the Davis Cup Finals in the calendar. “We believe there is a global scheduling issue in tennis – said Kris Dent – and we are more than willing to move our competition to the date that makes more sense for tennis in general, regardless of the specific interests of the individual stakeholders”. And while this statement sounds extremely accommodating at first, it has to be noted that at the moment the Davis Cup Finals have possibly the worst week in the calendar, and any change would likely be a change for the better for this competition. “During the ATP Finals week in London we made a proposal to the ATP, the WTA and the Grand Slam tournaments, and we are waiting for their answer. We have included in the conversation also the Laver Cup through their shareholders Tennis Australia and USTA”. In fact, the Laver Cup probably holds the best card in this entire poker game, since it is positioned in the week that would be ideal for the Davis Cup Finals: starting seven days after the end of the US Open and ending seven days before the Asian swing, the Laver Cup is now in a position to hold to ransom the entire tennis world while just being a non-sanctioned two-year-old competition.

Another problem faced by Kosmos is players’ willingness to make themselves available for a competition that, as it stands, it cuts into their already limited off-season, without having to use Olympic eligibility as a coercive tool, since it is now being challenged by the players directly at an IOC level. For this purpose, Kosmos hired Galo Blanco, former ATP pro and more recently coach to top players like Raonic, Khachanov and Thiem, whose main task is to answer all questions about the competition any player, coach or captain may have. “Some of them were reluctant to play in Madrid in November because they thought the surface would be clay. But it won’t be on clay: the surface will be the same as the one that is used at the O2 Arena for the ATP Finals. I’m here to reassure them about all the details of the competition”.

Kosmos expects droves of fans to travel to Madrid for a week and make a great atmosphere for the event. “Our dream – Blanco continues – is to have a packed stadium for the final, with half of the fans dressed in the colors of one team and the other half dressed in the colors of the other finalist”. It is true that the old Davis Cup format did not allow to know the teams competing in the final and the venue for the event until late September-beginning of October, and this was a potential obstacle to fans arranging the trip. Now teams and venue will be known as of mid-February. However, a Davis Cup Final has always been a 3-day affair, while with the new format fans will be expected to be at the venue for the entire week, and although Kosmos does not see this as a problem, fans (and their bank accounts) may think differently.

The new Davis Cup Finals format is certainly an improvement for players, even if some of them have been very candidly saying they will not play: “I remember that when I was a player it was very difficult to commit to playing Davis Cup because it could mean up to 7-8 weeks of your schedule occupied by the competition – says Blanco – It’s definitely too much. Now that commitment has been reduced by half and we believe it is now much more manageable”.

What Kosmos and ITF want to stress is the flow of fresh money this new Davis Cup format will bring into tennis: now players will play for a very large prize money at the Finals ($20 million a year) and tennis federations will receive substantial funding they will be able to invest in player development. “We have also plans including Fed Cup – adds Dent – that as of 2019 will see its prize money doubled with an increase of approximately 4 million dollars”.

The “war of team cups” is just getting started, the first round of the new Davis Cup by Kosmos is just a few weeks away but the crucial battle will be fought between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when in a six-week time span there will be two substantially identical competitions each promoted by a different organism. We could say “let the best win”: we just hope there will still be a sport to follow when the dust settles on the battlefield.

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ITF

Alexander Zverev Cruises Past Ebden To Seal Germany’s Place In Hopman Cup Final

Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber will compete in tomorrow’s Hopman Cup final after cruising past Australia.

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Alexander Zverev (zimbio.com)

Germany are into the Hopman Cup final for a second year in a row after Alexander Zverev cruises past Matthew Ebden 6-4 6-3. 

The 21 year old was given the opportunity to seal victory for Germany after Angelique Kerber defeated Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-4 in the first match.

It was a comfortable win for Zverev who broke his opponent’s serve three times to seal Germany’s place in the final for a second year in a row.

The duo remained undefeated in singles and will play Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic in the final in a rematch of last year’s final.

It was a very good start from the ATP Finals champion who looked impressive throughout the contest as some aggressive play saw a break in the third game.

Although were some good patterns of play from Ebden, the Australian rarely threatened when receiving as Zverev’s big serve helped him dominate.

The world number four held very comfortably and it was the one break which helped him cruise to the first set in 43 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second set for the German as he broke again at the same time as he did in the first set to seal the momentum.

Although in the second set there was a lot more frustration as he felt he should have broken more times than the one in each set.

Despite the frustration though there was still some light-hearted moments from the German who was entertaining the crowd at the same time.

Eventually though he did get the crucial second break in the set to seal the win and Germany’s place in tomorrow’s final.

After the match Zverev said he was pleased that him and Kerber were back in the final and are looking for revenge after their defeat to Switzerland last year, “It’s nice to be back in a final. It’s nice to play Switzerland as well,” the German said.

“We lost a very close match last year, and we definitely wanted to get there and compete for the title again. And that’s why me and Angie decided after last year’s final that we are definitely going to come back here to Perth.”

Earlier in the day Angelique Kerber completed her unbeaten run in singles in Perth with a comfortable 6-4 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty.

The Wimbledon champion broke twice in a simple victory for Kerber who has already beaten Garbine Muguruza and Alize Cornet this week.

In tomorrow’s final Roger Federer will take on Alexander Zverev in a rematch from the ATP Finals semi-final while Belinda Bencic takes on Angelique Kerber. If its level after the singles then the Fast4 mixed doubles will decide who wins the 2019 Hopman Cup.

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ITF

Serena Williams comes back from one set down to beat Belinda Bencic in the Hopman Cup in Perth

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Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams fought back from a slow start to beat Belinda Bencic 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second singles match of the Hopman Cup in Perth to keep alive US hopes after their defeat against Greece in Monday’s first tie.

Williams played her second singles match since her defeat against Naomi Osaka in the US Open final in New York last September. Yesterday she beat Greek Maria Sakkari 7-6 (7-3) 7-2 in her inaugural match. In the first matches Switzerland beat Great Britain, while a Greek team led by Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari beat the USA.

The US legend got an early break to race out to a 4-1 lead but Bencic reeled off five consecutive games to close out the first set 6-4. Williams bounced back in the second set and got the crucial break in the 10th game to win it 6-4 forcing the match to the decisive set after Bencic made three unforced errors. Williams earned an early break to win the third set 6-3.

“It’s a relief. She played really well but I knew that I could play better”, said Williams in the post match interview.

Federer and Bencic win the “battle of legends” mixed doubles match: 

In the eagerly awaited “battle of the legends” mixed doubles match Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic clinched the second win for Switzerland with a 4-2 4-3 victory over Serena Williams and Frances Tiafoe in just 46 minutes. The defending champions from Switzerland broke Tiafoe in the fifth game thanks to a return winner from Bencic. Federer held serve at love to wrap up the opening set a few minutes later. Federer and Bencic fended off a break point in the fourth game of the second set before sealing the tie-break 5-3 after Federer hit a volley. Federer and Willams won a combined 43 Grand Slam titles.

Switzerland will take on Greece in the last match of the round round stage.

“I am kind of sad it’s over. It was so fun to do this at the pinnacle of our careers. The guy is great. He is the greatest of all time. He has a killer serve. I have watched him all the time but I never realised how good it was. Maybe I could get some tips from him later on”, said Serena Williams in the post match interview.

“It was great fun I really enjoyed playing against Serena. I was nervous returning because people talk about her serve so much. I know why they say it now. She has a wonderful serve. She is a great champion. You see how focused she is and I love that about her”, said Federer. 

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