Roger Federer has bookended his career with a second Hopman Cup triumph – 17 years after he won his first professional trophy in Perth as a teenager with Martina Hingis.
Switzerland defeated Germany 2-1 in Saturday’s Hopman Cup final at a packed Perth Arena, as Federer and partner Belinda Bencic sealed their triumph with a 4-3 (5-3) 4-2 win over Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber in a tense Fast4 mixed doubles finale.
Federer, 36, had earlier strengthened his grip on favouritism for a remarkable sixth Australian Open crown after he disposed of next generation challenger Zverev in the men’s singles.
The Swiss master completed a perfect week in Perth with his fourth singles win from four matches, overcoming the world No.4 6-7 (7-4) 6-0 6-2 in front of 14,008 fans.
Kerber then matched Federer’s blemish-free week with her fourth win in the women’s singles, defeating Bencic 6-4 6-1 to send the final into a mixed doubles decider.
The Germans only qualified for the final late on Friday night after getting out of jail in a thrilling third set tiebreak in the decisive mixed doubles rubber against Australia.
But they couldn’t complete the fairytale, with Federer acing Kerber with a kicking second serve on championship point.
It was Switzerland’s third Hopman Cup title after wins in 1992 and 2001. Federer paid tribute to the now-retired Hingis for inspiring him as a young player.
“After all these years I can’t believe I’m here again. It’s absolutely amazing,” he said.
“Martina was different, she was hard work and very serious, but incredibly talented. I learned a lot from her, especially the two years I was here – once as a hitting partner and once as a partner with Martina. Definitely she helped me to become the player I am today.”
Bencic, 20, described her week as incredible.
“I want to thank Roger for playing with me. This is like a dream coming true for me and I couldn’t wish for a better partner. I’ll never forget this week,” she said.
The first sell-out for a Hopman Cup final at Perth Arena ensured the tournament set a new total crowd record of 106,424 on the back of Federer’s massive appeal.
The final crowd tally eclipsed the previous record of 104,468, set in 2013 when the event moved from Burswood Dome to the larger Perth Arena for the first time.
Federer dropped his first set for the tournament in singles when he was hampered by a series of unforced errors, but from there he immediately took control against Zverev.
The ageing legend won 10 of the last 12 games of the match to steamroll the 20-year-old, who many view as the prime challenger to the supremacy of the ageing big four.
Federer clinched the match with a memorable backhand drop shot.
“To finish the match like this, I never did that. So that was a great feeling and I couldn’t be more happy,” he said.
“I played great throughout the three sets. I think Sascha definitely dropped his level of play a little bit obviously in the second and third set. But I was able to take advantage of it.”
Zverev was the first player to arrive in Perth ahead of the tournament but finished with just one singles win and three losses in a patchy preparation for the year’s first grand slam.
He was backing up less than 24 hours after his gruelling 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 loss to Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis on Friday night in the match of the week.
Zverev trained until nearly 1am yesterday after being disappointed with his form in his singles and the mixed doubles, where Germany scraped through to the decider.
He needed more than 10 minutes to hold his first service game and saved a set point as he held his nerve to take the first set to a tiebreak.
It was the youngster who prevailed, with an uncharacteristically sloppy Federer blasting a ball into the top deck of the packed stadium in frustration after Zverev lobbed him during the tiebreak. The Swiss master committed 19 unforced errors to the German’s nine in the first set.
Federer pounced to secure the first break of the match in the first game of the second set and Zverev argued with the chair umpire as he was broken again to trail 0-3 in the second set.
After the pair slugged it out for 56 minutes in the opening set, Federer bagelled his dispirited opponent in just 22 minutes before again controlling the third.
Federer did not drop a set during the group stage, accounting for Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, Russia’s Karen Khachanov and American Jack Sock.
Zverev defeated Canada’s Vasek Pospisil but lost to both world No.7 David Goffin and Kokkinakis.