Roger Federer and Karen Khachanov almost reenacted their Halle semi-final from last year when they faced off in the Hopman Cup on Tuesday in a clash that saw the Swiss edge past the Russian NextGen player 6-3, 7-6 (8) in Perth.
Their previous showdown in Halle ended 6-4, 7-6 (5) in Federer’s favour, with Khachanov stepping up his game significantly in the second set on both occasions, but ultimately surrendering to the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
“I thought the intensity was great, the level was very high too,” said Federer, who together with Swiss partner Belinda Bencic wrapped up a 3-0 win over the Russian team of Khachanov and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“Karen got off to a really great start, me too actually, to be quite honest. We fought hard in the beginning for the first four games, and at the end I was up. He put me under pressure early on and then we caught a great spell on our serves, it was a bit of serving an exhibition after that for probably 45 minutes or so.
“And then at the end there were some minor chances and the tiebreaker was close. It had a bit of everything. It was a good to play a tiebreaker, this kind, early on in the season, to get through those nervy situations, with the pulse up high, and you’re sweaty and you’re trying to figure it out. It was a good match overall so I’m very happy with my performance.”
“You can call me ‘Dr. Federer’ if you want to…” 😂
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) January 2, 2018
Khachanov showed some impressive form with blistering groundstrokes that sometimes took Federer by surprise.
“I think it was quite a good level, so still I need to work on some things that I don’t feel well but overall I think it was a good fight, that’s what you need at the beginning of the year, these kind of matches I think to get into it,” said the 198cm 21-year-old.
“It was very similar (to our match in Halle), it was again a close match, close second set, similar scenario in the first set. Still I made some mistakes in my game and I need to keep working on it.”
Looking ahead, Khachanov said he has set himself quite high targets in 2018.
“Goals are always high, you know you want to achieve as much as possible,” said the world No. 45.
Meanwhile, Bencic continues to show glimpses of her previous top-10 form as she hit 38 winners to down the 15th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The 20-year-old ended her 2017 season with 15 consecutive victories, picking up titles in Taipei, Thailand and Dubai.
Switzerland 3 – 0 Russia
Men’s singles: Roger Federer (SUI) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-3, 7-6 (8)
Women’s singles: Belinda Bencic (SUI) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Mixed doubles: Bencic/Federer (SUI) bt Pavlyuchenkova/Khachanov (RUS) 4-3 (1), 3-4 (3), 4-1
The Austrian had a solid weekend in the UAE capital, where he lost a tight match to Kevin Anderson on Friday before defeating Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday.
Thiem is the top seed in Doha this week and will be targeting a maiden Grand Slam success at the Australian Open this month.
Check out the video above to see how fared in the Sport360 Arabic test.
Riske, who had been hoping for her first win against the former world number one, proved to be a tough opponent early in the match before the Russian finally overcame her 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in just under two and a half hours.
“I’m glad I got this kind of match. Although I would’ve wanted a quick and easy victory, these are the kind of matches that you need, especially with such a short preparation going into the Australian Open in terms of matchplay,” Sharapova said afterwards.
“I’m just glad that I came back. She played a really great match and as I said to her at the net, I thought it was a great quality match. In the end, I won it so I have another opportunity to keep going.”
Despite Riske’s early lead, Sharapova hit 34 winners, nearly three times Riske’s total.
The world number 59 was helped by 11 aces, and managed to save seven out of 10 break points.
— WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2018
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko meanwhile slumped to a shock defeat on Tuesday only days after beating Serena Williams in the American’s comeback match.
Number two seed Ostapenko of Latvia lost to the big-serving Czech Kristyna Pliskova 6-1, 6-4 in just an hour and 20 minutes.
Ostapenko had beaten Williams via a super tiebreak 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, but she had no answer to the power of Pliskova, identical twin sister of former world number one Karolina.
“I felt a bit nervous in the second set, but my serve was really working today, which was a big help,” Pliskova said after the match.
Pliskova, third on the WTA Tour’s ace charts last season, raced out to a 5-0 lead to start the match.
.@KrisPliskova shocks Ostapenko 6-1, 6-4!
— WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2018
“My serve was great today, especially in the first set. I feel like it’s really fast here, so that can be tricky for both of us, and the first of us playing fast won the point.”
It was not the start to 2018 that Ostapenko wanted, with the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open – starting in 13 days’ time.
Earlier there was disappointment for the home crowd when Chinese number three seed Zhang Shuai was bundled out in three sets by Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.