PERTH, Australia — After almost 20 years of showing alongside each other on billboards and in report books, Serena Williams and Roger Federer confronted each other throughout a tennis court docket for the primary time on Tuesday.
The incandescent stars, now each 37, lastly aligned for the primary time in a blended doubles match between the United States and Switzerland on the Hopman Cup group occasion.
On the opening level, Williams pulled Federer vast to his forehand facet with a sharply angled volley, then despatched a smash towards the other nook which he couldn’t attain in time to ship again. Long exchanges between the 2 proved few, nonetheless, with every utilizing their serve to successfully neutralize the opposite.
It didn’t appear to matter to the gang of 14,064 in Perth Arena, the very best single-session attendance within the occasion’s 31-year historical past, and Williams and Federer clearly delighted within the likelihood to hit the ball round with one another a few weeks earlier than the extra critical play on the Australian Open.
“It was a great experience,” Williams mentioned as she joined Federer on court docket after the match. “I’m kind of sad it’s over. It was just warming up.”
Federer and his associate Belinda Bencic beat Williams and Frances Tiafoe in an abbreviated format match by the rating of Four-2, Four-Three (5-Three) in 46 minutes.
Despite the preliminary, promising alternate within the first set, Williams and Federer appeared to settle into extra conservative play; in your entire first set, neither Federer nor Williams succeeded in making a single return off the opposite’s serve.
(There have been, technically, two different folks on the court docket as properly. Bencic hit a pivotal return winner off Tiafoe’s serve that helped Switzerland take the lead within the first set.)
Federer and Williams each gained extra of a foothold on the opposite’s serve within the second set, which was highlighted by a six-shot alternate of highly effective cross-court groundstrokes between the 2 earlier than Federer gained the purpose by ripping a forehand towards Tiafoe.
Williams and Federer afterward sized one another up.
“I was nervous returning, because you just don’t know,” Federer mentioned. “People talk about her serve so much, and I see why it is such a wonderful serve, because you just can’t read it.”
“I can’t read yours either,” Williams interjected, laughing.
“We have the same qualities, you know?” Federer mentioned.
“Yours is a bit better,” he added, upsetting a good-natured eye roll from Williams.
“It was great, great fun,” Federer added. “She’s a great champion — you see how focused and determined she is — and I love that about her.”
Williams eagerly reciprocated.
“I mean, the guy is great, he’s the greatest of all time, to be honest,” Williams mentioned, drawing applause from the gang (Williams has mentioned she doubted she may beat Federer in a singles match).
“He has a killer serve,” she mentioned. “Literally, you can’t read it, and there’s a reason why he’s the greatest, because you can’t be that great and not have an awesome weapon like that serve.”
That Williams’s serve would show formidable to top-of-the-line males’s gamers isn’t any shock, particularly sooner or later after she had despatched a clear ace previous the attain of 6-foot-Four Stefanos Tsitsipas in a blended doubles match.
“Like I had any chance of returning that one,” Tsitsipas wrote on Twitter, replying to a picture of the serve spinning properly past his attain.
After Williams insisted that they maintain rackets throughout an on-court selfie, they walked again to their seats with their arms wrapped round each other, and Federer mentioned his racket was hers to maintain.
As she carried it into the gamers’ space of Perth Arena alongside Tiafoe, Williams stared on the racket with seen wonderment, displaying it to her associate and letting him maintain it briefly.
“I was so excited,” Williams instructed reporters. “Literally, it was the match of my career. I don’t know, just playing someone so great, and someone that you admire so much — and a match that actually means something. It’s not often that that happens.”
The blended doubles win gave the tie to Switzerland, who’re the defending champions after Federer and Bencic gained the competitors final 12 months. Williams expressed delicate disappointment at her play, particularly contemplating her superior doubles pedigree of 16 Grand Slam titles to Federer’s none.
“I’m the one that won those doubles Grand Slams, but it didn’t look like it,” she mentioned.
Williams mentioned she had been tempted to deliver her 16-month previous daughter, Olympia, to the match. She in the end determined towards that, settling for having an unforgettable story to inform her.
“Men and women’s tennis just don’t compete against each other,” she mentioned. “So it’s just really great and special to go against the greatest of all time.”
After this summit of superstars, Federer may inform his youngsters the identical factor.
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