Federer relishes clash with Williams in Perth

PERTH • Tennis royalty Roger Federer and Serena Williams, with 43 Grand Slam singles titles between them, will welcome the new year on opposite sides of the net at the mixed-team Hopman Cup.

Federer leads Switzerland in defence of the Cup he won alongside Belinda Bencic earlier this year.

The American Williams is back for the first time since winning the Australian Open last year. She partners world No. 39 Frances Tiafoe in her fifth Cup appearance.

Federer said the mixed-doubles tie against Williams on Tuesday, Jan 1, was a once-in-a-lifetime match-up he was looking forward to.

“We’ll probably play it down a little bit and say it’s not that big of a deal for us, it’s just another tennis match, but it really isn’t because it’s probably going to happen once and never again,” said the world No. 3.

The 20-time Major winner has spent the off-season training hard ahead of the defence of his Australian Open title, which starts on Jan 14, and revealed he was happy with his fitness levels.

The 37-year-old, who has gone on to lift the opening Grand Slam of the year for the past two seasons after starting in Perth, added: “The last three or four weeks have been very intense. I’m very excited and motivated for this next season.”

Serena played an exhibition match against sister Venus in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, losing 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 at the Mubadala Championships.

The Hopman Cup will be her first competitive event since her meltdown in the US Open final against eventual winner Naomi Osaka.

She chose not to talk about that infamous rant at umpire Carlos Ramos, instead saying she was looking forward to win an eighth crown at Melbourne Park, which would put her equal with Australian Margaret Court on 24 Slams.

She said: “I feel like I’m pretty fit. I haven’t played with Frances in mixed doubles before, but have watched him from afar this year. He has a very bright future and I’m looking forward to being on court with him, it will be a lot of fun.”

Her 20-year-old partner is considered one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars, having landed his first ATP singles title at the Delray Beach Open in February.

He said: “I’m extremely nervous to play with Serena, a complete legend. But I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Completing Group B are Greece (Stefanos Tsitsipas/Maria Sakkari) and Britain (Cameron Norrie/Katie Boulter).

Losing finalists Germany (Alexander Zverev/Angelique Kerber) are in Group A with France (Lucas Pouille/Alize Cornet), Australia (Matt Ebden/Ashleigh Barty), and Spain (Garbine Muguruza/David Ferrer).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HOPMAN CUP

Britain v Greece: Singtel TV Ch115 StarHub Ch209, 9.45am. Australia v France: 5.15pm

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