Tennis

Federer stunned by German teen

Roger Federer's comeback from injury suffered its first setback yesterday when he was beaten by teenager Alexander Zverev at the mixed-team Hopman Cup in Perth.

In one of the highest-quality singles matches ever seen in the 29-year history of the tournament, Federer showed plenty of the class which has won him a record 17 Grand Slams, but couldn't quite hold off the bold 19-year-old German.

He was left to rue his failure to serve out the first set when leading 5-3 as Zverev took a match ultimately decided by three tie-breakers, 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4) in two hours and 30 minutes.

In the end, two booming first serves from Zverev, the first teenager to make the top 20 since Novak Djokovic in 2006, closed out the match in front of a record Perth tennis crowd of 13,785.

It was Zverev's second straight win over the Swiss champ, having beaten him in Germany last June, and the result also mirrored that of an unofficial match on the practice court on New Year's Eve.

Federer was upbeat despite his defeat by a player he believes will be a star for the next decade.

"It was good to play for two and a half hours," he said.

"Sasha (Zverev) can serve big and showed what he can do, but I was happy (with) how I hung around, and I had some really good moments.

"As long as I am injury free and feeling good."

It was only the 35-year-old's second match since a six-month lay-off due to knee and back injuries following his win over England's Dan Evans on Monday.

THE RIGHT TRACK

But Federer - who is out of the top 10 for the first time since late 2002 - said he was on the right track for the upcoming Australian Open.

"I am very happy, I have played five good sets so far," he said. "I am very pleased, practice has gone great, the matches have been a lot of fun and I am playing good tennis."

But Federer lamented his inability to serve out the first set and a subsequent poor tie-breaker. - AFP

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