Roger Federer took the honours in the much-anticipated mixed doubles clash with fellow great Serena Williams in what the latter described as the “match of her career” at the Hopman Cup in Perth Tuesday.
In the biggest mixed doubles drawcard in the 31-year history of the tournament, in what is expected to be its final edition, Federer teamed with Belinda Bencic to win the match in straight sets under the Fast4 format and win the Group B tie for Switzerland.
With 43 Grand Slam singles titles (Williams 23, Federer 20) and more than US$200 million in prize money between them, the two 37-year-olds had welcomed the chance to face each other on the court in an official match for the first time.
As it turned out, the tie was decided by the mixed doubles, after both Federer and Williams won their earlier singles matches.
A capacity crowd of 14,064 turned out for the tie, and they saw Federer and Bencic largely capitalise on the mixed doubles inexperience of Williams' teammate, Francis Tiafoe, to clinch the deciding rubber under the Fast4 format, 4-2, 4-3 (5/3).
Williams, who seemed to be troubled by her right shoulder during the match but said it wasn't a concern, was disappointed her doubles experience didn't give the Americans the edge.
However, even a rare defeat couldn't take the gloss off the experience of facing Federer for the first, and almost certainly the only, time.
Match of my career
“I was so excited and literally it was the match of my career,” she said.
“Playing someone so great and that you admire so much in a match that actually means something.
“It is really great and special to go against the greatest of all time.”
Federer said he was thrilled to play against one of the few players with more Grand Slam titles.
“I really enjoyed playing against Serena, what an honour and pleasure,” he said.
“I was nervous returning because people talk about her serve so much.
“It was great fun, she is a great champion, you see how focussed and determined she is and I love that about her.”
The pair posed together for a selfie after the match.