Roger Federer led Switzerland into the Hopman Cup final for a second straight year after the 20-time grand slam champion defeated the exciting young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday night.
Federer overcame a scare in the first set tiebreak to win 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) in 93 minutes.
The winning game Switzerland a 1-0 lead in the tie – enough to book them a spot in Saturday’s final given that they already beat Great Britain (3-0) and the US (2-1) earlier in the tournament.
Greece needed to beat Switzerland 3-0 to reach the final.
And their hopes looked promising when the 20-year-old world No.15 Tsitsipas led 4-1 in the first-set tiebreak.
But then, Federer reeled off four straight points to get himself back into the contest, before a late Tsitsipas double fault handed the Swiss maestro set point.
Eight of the first 11 service games in the opening set were won to love, and the serve continued to dominate in the second set.
Federer couldn’t convert either of his three break points in the second set as the contest headed to another tiebreak.
But the 37-year-old came up with the goods again in the tiebreak, producing a deft drop shot to set up three match points.
Switzerland will take on either Germany or Australia in the final.
Serena Williams has signed off on her official Australian Open preparations with her third singles win at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The US pairing of Williams and Frances Tiafoe failed to make it to Saturday’s final though, having lost all three of their mixed doubles contests, but the former world No.1 got through her return to tennis despite carrying a few niggles.
The 23-times grand slam champion is on the comeback trail, having not played in a WTA tournament since losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka. Her only match since then was a one-off exhibition match against her sister, Venus, in Abu Dhabi last month.
With the Australian Open only 11 days away, Williams was far from her best on Thursday, but beat Great Britain youngster Katie Boulter 6-1 7-6 (7-2) in 78 minutes.
She seemed to struggle with her right shoulder throughout the week and stretched it out a couple of times early against Boulter. But her right ankle, which she had strapped during practice, does not appear to be troubling her.
Boulter, ranked 97 in the world, frequently won points on the Williams serve and broke it in the second set. But she was outclassed by Williams in the tiebreak.
Williams, now ranked 16, sent down 20 winners and 19 unforced errors and clearly already has her focus set on Melbourne Park.
“It was perfect; it’s just like this in Melbourne. It’s the exact same sun and it gives me so many problems,” she said.
“After you serve, you are blind for the next two points.
“It was good to play three matches here, singles, not to mention the mixed doubles.”
Williams dropped a set to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on Tuesday, but beat Maria Sakkari of Greece in straight sets on Monday.
Cameron Norrie overcame a slow start to beat Tiafoe 7-6 (7-5) 6-0 in the men’s singles rubber on Thursday. Norrie breezed through the second set to win in just 69 minutes.
Great Britain won the live mixed doubles rubber 3-4 (5-2) 4-3 (5-4) 4-1, but the result had no bearing on the tournament.
The Swiss pair of Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic are favoured to finish on top of Group B and progress to the final on Saturday where they will defend the title they won last summer.
Two of the world’s best players stand between Australia and a place in the Hopman Cup final in Perth on Saturday night.
For Ashleigh Barty and Matt Ebden to finish on top of Group A and advance to the decider, they will need to beat tournament favourites Germany, represented by world No.2 Angelique Kerber and world No.4 Alexander Zverev, in their tie on Friday night.
Ebden will face Zverev for the first time. The ledger stands at 2-2 between Barty and Kerber though, with the Australian claiming wins in two of their past three outings, including a straight-sets victory the last time they met, in China late last year.
So, although Kerber is unbeaten in six singles matches in two years at the Hopman Cup, she is wary of the improving Barty.
Barty finished 2018 in a career-high 15th placing in the world rankings.
Both Germany and Australia are chasing their third Cup titles.
The hosts’ last win was in 2016 when represented by Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova.
Boris Becker and Anke Huber last claimed the championships for the Germans in 1995.
The winner of Group A will most likely face the defending champions Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the final.