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By Chris Oddo | Friday January 6, 2016

Switzerland was eliminated from Hopman Cup on Friday night in Perth—but Roger Federer got what he needed out of the experience.

Watch: Adorable, Crying Girl Moved to Tears by Federer at Hopman Cup Coin Toss

Federer, playing his first competitive tennis since Wimbledon 2016, went 2-1 in three singles matches (including last night’s straight-sets win over Richard Gasqut), and while it may have looked to many like he was on a whirlwind promotional tour (see bongo playing, kangaroo cuddling), the Swiss maestro got three challenging matchups against three solid players to test his fitness, his problem solving and his shot making.

Don’t let the loss to rising 19-year-old Alexander Zverev fool you—Federer showed some fantastic form in Perth. He played physical tennis, struck the backhand with authority, and moved flawlessly. Hopman Cup seems to have been the perfect choice for Federer to begin his Aussie Open prep, because he was able to play three matches on a set schedule, and because the matches were relatively pressure-free affairs, where he was able to hit out with freedom, testing the limits of his grooved power game.

He says he felt better as the week went on.

“The matches were completely different,” he said. “Dan Evans is fast on his feet. Zverev [is a] super-strong, big-serving kind of guy. And Richard [Gasquet], he knows his stuff. He’s a veteran, he knows how to play with spins and slices, he carves his way through matches and is experienced, so I’m happy I had these three completely different matchups.”


Federer admits that he was a little bit unsure about how things would go after such a long hiatus.

“I’m happy where my level is at,” he said. “I’m very pleased that it’s going so well. I was uncertain. I said it openly and honestly that I didn’t quite know how it was going to go. Getting over the jet lag is always a challenge in some ways… the body has finally settled—it’s gotten used to Australian time, that’s a great thing for me now, and I can also play more freely in the process with less thoughts behind it that you could hurt yourself again.”

He added: “I’m very happy how the week has gone by. I’m definitely more on the safe side now than I was when I came here.”

Our Take: This was the perfect step for Federer to take. Now he can head back to the practice courts with a lot of information to process and start fine-tuning his fitness so that he can be ready for best-of-five matches in Melbourne. His next match will be the first round of a major, so there isn’t much time to prepare. But Federer has proved to himself that he’s fit and that his strokes are grooved enough to compete with anyone.

He also bounced back nicely from a tough loss to Zverev in a fairly physical match to crush Richard Gasquet in his final match—that will be good for the confidence.


 

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