As defeats go, Roger Federer couldn’t be happier with his 7-6(1) 6-7(4) 7-6(4) loss to Alexander Zverev at Hopman Cup.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion was quick to move on after being beaten by the teenage world No.24, partnering fellow Swiss Belinda Bencic to rescue the tie against Germany in the deciding Fast4 doubles.
Zverev, one of the ATP tour’s rapidly rising stars, went toe-to-toe with Federer for exactly two and a half hours before sealing victory on his first match point – his second win over the 35-year-old after beating him in Halle last year.
Yet Federer believes he got exactly the type of workout he needs to see where his game is right now, as well as his powers of recovery. The result was, in a sense, a secondary concern.
“Who really cares, as long as I am playing injury-free and feeling good,” Federer said.
“I actually pulled up really good after the first match and the mixed, the next day, so this one will feel different.
“I’ll feel muscle pain, which is also one of the reasons why I came here, to have that pain in my body, so hopefully if I do have a tough match at the beginning in Melbourne I don’t have to go through it as extreme over there.
“I’m very happy. I have played five good sets so far. I am very pleased.”
Federer will face Richard Gasquet on Friday night when Switzerland face France, with a place in Saturday’s final against the United States up for grabs.
The guarantee of three matches, and the prospect of four, was one of the driving factors behind Federer’s return to Hopman Cup for the first time in 15 years after his six-month injury lay-off.
“I think [Zverev and I] did very well over a long period of time, and that at the beginning of the season is not easy to do,” he said.
“It was good to play two and a half hours. It is a great number to compete in, which is why I was really pushing to win the second set, to extend the match and get me into a tough, long match.”
Bencic defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-3 6-4 before partnering Federer to a 4-1 4-1 win in the mixed doubles to post their second win of the competition.