Roger Federer lost to Alexander Zverev in the singles match of the Switzerland vs Germany round-robin tie at Hopman Cup. The two engaged in a battle spanning two hours and a half. It is the best match of this year’s Hopman Cup yet. It was a high-quality match overall and very tight too. The young German, Alexander Zverev was the one who tasted the victory in the end. He won the match 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 7-6(4).
The match required all the three sets to be played. And, each set ended with a tiebreaker. The match was very tight and both Federer and Zverev had to keep up with the pace of the game throughout. The pressure was pretty much there especially on Federer who was playing only his second match on his comeback. It was pretty evident when he uncharacteristically, made two double faults in the tiebreaker of the opening set. Zverev had nothing to lose and played fearless tennis. He won a lot of points with his powerful forehand, thanks to his physical strength on that wing. He served particularly well barring his 5 double faults and especially when it matters the most; in the third set. Federer was okay overall but was lacking confidence to be aggressive in a rally early enough.
Federer put his nose in the front in the first set when he got a break in the 6th game. Federer served for the first set at 5-3 but was unsuccessful. Zverev’s spirit was clearly felt. What followed after a while was a terrible tiebreaker for Federer in which he won only a point on serve. He made 2 double faults in a row in that game. After that, neither Federer nor Zverev had their serve broken till the end of the match. Federer made a comeback by winning the tiebreaker in the second set playing amazingly in the last point. In the third set, his return games started to look bad. Also, Alexander kept serving big. The third set also ended with a tiebreaker which saw Zverev volley at the net on the last point to win the mach. The match was over after 150 minutes of fierce competition. Zverev had won the match 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 7-6(4).
Looking at the stats of the match
As far as service is concerned, Zverev made some difference with his 17 aces as compared to Federer’s 9. But, the service games were not Federer’s biggest problem, the return games were. Roger only created 4 break points in the whole match. That does speak about Zverev’s great first serve again but it also indicates that Roger was not performing his best in the return games. He was hardly rallying very well. He made 44 unforced errors during the match. Moreover, he was not confident while playing the rallies. He couldn’t find a way to stop the brutal force of Zverev from causing damage. Understandably then, he wasn’t aggressive enough in the rallies. But, let’s admit that, it was not the worst day at office for Roger . He did save 6 of the 7 break points he faced . He won 71% of his net points while Zverev managed to win not more than 56% of them. He fought back bravely in the second set and was as patient as one could be for 3 whole sets. It was a close match. But, sadly, we could have only one winner in the end.
As for Roger, he needs to be serving better to tackle the ball bashers in the sport. Historically, the ball bashers have given him a tough time especially once he crossed his prime. To better compete with these guys, his first serve percentage needs to go up to the upper-end of his capacity (in the 67-70%) to balance a poor returning day shall he encounter more of these. His new competitors who are younger than him by more than 10 years will make his days more and more difficult. So, his own service has to be more reliable.
Zverev is now beginning to prove that he is at least a genuine talent. He has now beaten Roger on 2 of the 3 surfaces (grass and hard). Yesterday, he looked quite like a gritty champion. He took his game to the opponent confidently and imposed himself on him. His shot had a lot of firepower and depth too. Moreover, he is growing mentally every day.
What Federer and Zverev had to say about their day
Federer was more or less positive about his performance. He said, “It’s a good high quality match. I think we both did very well over a long period of time and that at the beginning of the season is not so easy to do. So, I think we both can be quite happy.”
He expressed that playing a lengthy match at the beginning of the season could prove useful.
“I’ll definitely feel the muscle pain and that’s also a part of the reason why I came here to actually to have that, get that pain in my body. So then hopefully if I do have a tough match at the beginning of Melbourne then I don’t have to go through it as extreme over there.”
Most importantly, Federer indicated that he is playing injury-free.
Zverev had it all sorted out when it came to planning a strategy to tackle Federer today. That’s what his words suggest.
“I knew I would probably get my chances sometime on his serve. You know, he was serving unbelievable throughout the whole match except that one game maybe. I knew I just had to keep focusing and take my chances.”
Zverev is fully aware of his improvement.
“I feel like I can play really good tennis right now because I got stronger because I got physically better and because also my tennis improved.”
Federer made a decent match of what was his first test this season. Yes, he needs to work on his serve further. But, all that will get into shape once he plays a couple of matches. He has at least one more match to play at Perth; he has to play Richard Gasquet in another round-robin tie. If Switzerland does win that tie, he also gets to play Jack Sock in the final. Both these matches should give him more of good match practice. Zverev should take a lot of confidence and momentum from this match and strive to get better and better every week. He looks on track to become a major contender for slams soon.
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