Kerber helps Germany scrape into Hopman final

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PERTH: Angelique Kerber’s early season renaissance continued to flourish on Friday as she led Germany into their first Hopman Cup final since 1995 at the mixed teams tournament in Perth.

The left-hander wound the clock back to 2016 with her menacing forehand as she thrashed Australia’s Daria Gavrilova in straight sets in the singles and then lifted the Germans to victory in the deciding mixed doubles as they notched a dramatic 2-1 win in their final Group A tie.

Kerber and Alexander Zverev only had to beat the Australians to reach Saturday’s final against Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic.

But it came down to a tense mixed doubles clash after world number four Zverev suffered a shock loss to Thanasi Kokkinakis in the men’s singles.

With Zverev’s form faltering noticeably, the Germans dropped the first set in the Fast4 doubles.

Although they levelled the match, their fate looked grim when Australia led 3-1 in the first-to-five third set tie-breaker, with the in-form Kokkinakis having two serves to come.

But the Germans won the next four points to advance to the final, denying the Belgium pairing of David Goffin and Elise Mertens, who had beaten Canada earlier in the day and would have gone through to the final with an Australian win. Zverev said Kerber deserved all the plaudits for their place in the final.

“Angie played unbelievable in both her matches,” he said.

“She is the reason we are in the final and I’m going to give her all the credit. I didn’t play very well today.”

The German pairing of Boris Becker and Anke Huber won the final in 1995, with Michael Stich and Steffi Graf winning it two years earlier.

Kerber started 2017 ranked number one in the world but slumped to 21 by the year’s end and on paper appeared to have her work cut out against the 26th-ranked Gavrilova in the singles. —Agencies

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