Back in June, Roger Federer and Karen Khachanov have met for the first time in Halle and Roger won that one by 6-4 7-6. They had a chance to stand against each other on the court again this week in Perth and Roger prevailed by a similar 6-3 7-6, delivering the opening point for Switzerland against Russia in their round robin tie.
Roger arrived in Perth with his eyes set on the first Hopman Cup title in 17 years, accompanied by Belinda Bencic who closed 2017 season with a strong run, and he is looking sharp and determined to prepare himself in the best possible way for the Australian Open.It wasn't the best possible start of the match for Roger, facing 4 break points in the opening 2 service games, but he seized the control after that and played a very solid match, hitting more winners than unforced errors and holding with ease in the remaining service games to keep the pressure on Karen.
Just like Roger, young Russian struggled to find his range in the opening few games, getting broken twice to find himself 3-1 down, and he raised his level to stay toe to toe with a great rival in the rest of the match, even missing a set point in the second set tie break.
Khachanov followed Roger's pace in the longer points (17-16 for Federer in the exchanges that reached the 5th shot) and Swiss had a 55-48 advantage in the shortest rallies up to 4 strokes, which gave him the win. As we can see, 75% of the points landed in the shortest range with no more than 4 shots, as they both used every chance to impose their shots and attack first, and they also had 44 service winners to conclude the points without a proper rally.
Federer was in front in serving department, firing 26 unreturned serves against 18 from Khachanov, and Swiss was also more efficient in the winners from the field, hitting 22 winners and leaving Karen on 14. They had a similar number of unforced errors (17-16 for Federer), missing mostly from their forehands, and Karen forced a significant number of errors from a 19-time Grand Slam champion (13-7 for Roger), which wasn't enough to bring him at least a set.
Khachanov needed a good start and for sure got it, firing 2 backhand winners and forcing 2 errors from Roger to convert his third break point and gain an early lead. Still, he failed to materialize it, spraying 3 errors in the second game to lose his advantage, as Roger got back to the scoreboard immediately.
Swiss still hadn't set his forehand like he wanted and he allowed another break point in game 3. He saved it with a drive volley winner and stroke 3 more for an important hold, and things looked much better for him on serve in the games that followed.
We saw 20 points in Roger's opening 2 service games and he had just 3 service winners in them, and Karen couldn't read rival's serve so well in the rest of the match. Russian was broken again in game 4 to fall 3-1 behind and that was the crucial moment of the opener, as he never got another chance on the return.
Federer tightened the grip in his games, losing 2 points in the next 3 games to conclude the opener by 6-3 in 29 minutes after 4 winners in that 9th game. Roger had a 10-7 advantage in service winners and a huge 13-4 lead in the winners from the field, completely outplaying his young rival who couldn't find the open space to land his shots and pass Federer.
Roger was ultra aggressive but he made just 7 unforced errors, 2 more than Karen, and it was 5-4 for Federer in forced error, which also couldn't make the difference. The second set was among the best we have seen in Perth this week, with easy holds on both sides and just 14 points for the returners in 12 service games.
Karen raised his level, starting to punch with more power and accuracy, not allowing Federer to interrupt his rhythm. Roger dropped 9 points in 6 service games but he also avoided troubles, keeping the points as short as possible and attacking right after the serve, when Karen would manage to return serve at first place.
The tie break started with 2 mini-breaks and they pushed each other to the limits since then, with Roger earning his first match point at 6-5 with a solid smash. He couldn't convert it, sending a forehand long, and Karen had a set point at 7-6 after a service winner.
Drive volley winner from Roger got him out of jail but Khachanov was ready to give his best in order to prolong the match, leveling the score at 8-8 thanks to another good attack. Still, his efforts were in vain after missing an easy backhand to give Roger his third match point at 9-8, and Swiss seized it after another basic error from the Russian to celebrate straight sets win.
It was 16-11 for Federer in service winners but Karen fired 10 winners from the field opposed to 9 from Roger, which provided a massive difference compared to the first set in Russian's favor. The number of unforced errors was similar (11-10 for Karen), just like in the opening set, and Khachanov forced 8 errors from Roger while making just 3, which was another prove how good he competed in the second set.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: