PERTH, Australia — Roger Federer won the bragging rights over fellow tennis great Serena Williams as they faced each other on court for the first time on Tuesday, with Federer spearheading Switzerland’s 4-2, 4-3 (3) victory in a mixed doubles decider at the Hopman Cup.
“I was nervous returning. People talk about her serve so much and I see why it is such a wonderful serve because you just can’t read it,” Federer said.
Federer and playing partner Belinda Bencic overcame Williams and Frances Tiafoe in the Fast4 format in front of a 14,000 capacity crowd.
“It was so fun. This is super cool that we get to do it at such a pinnacle point of our careers,” Williams said.
Federer and Williams have won 43 Grand Slam singles titles between them.
Defending champion Switzerland will qualify for Saturday’s final if it beats Greece on Thursday. The United States, which lost to Greece on Monday, can’t now advance.
The much-hyped contest lived up to the billing immediately with Federer almost running down Williams’ smash into the open court. Williams and Federer both served well against each other, but Federer’s sublime touch at the net proved decisive.
Williams grabbed at her right shoulder on several occasions late in the second set but played the match out.
Earlier, Federer beat Tiafoe 6-4, 6-1 in the men’s singles before Williams leveled the tie with a comeback 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Bencic.
Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press on Wednesday, marking the fifth time she has won the award.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion returned to tennis following a health scare during and after the birth of her first child, daughter Olympia, in September 2017. Williams had an emergency C-section, sustained blood clots that required multiple surgeries, and was confined to her bed for six weeks. She returned to competition five months after Olympia’s birth, and was outspoken about the difficulties she faced in coming back to tennis. Donning a catsuit at the French Open, Williams posted on Instagram, “For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy—here you go. If I can do it, so can you.”
Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in her first competitive season as a mom, though she did not win either tournament. She also used her platform to push for rule changes at WTA events: beginning in 2019, players can use a “special ranking” for up to three years from the birth of a child when returning to the tour, which can be utilized for seeding at major events, and the tour will now allow players to wear leggings or compression shorts without the requirement of a skirt or dress over them.
The 37-year-old received 93 votes from U.S. editors and news directors. Simone Biles was second in voting, with 68 votes, and Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale finished third. Also in the top five was Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim and 2017 winner Katie Ledecky. Williams previously won the award in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Only one woman – Babe Didrikson Zaharias – who won once for track and field and five times for golf, has won the award more times than Williams.
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Serena Williams argued that a male player would have been treated differently in her U.S. Open final episode Saturday. The WTA agrees.
“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs. women and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement Sunday. “We do not believe that this was done last night.”
Among Williams’ arguments with chair umpire Carlos Ramos was contesting her third code violation, verbal abuse, after she called Ramos a liar and a thief for an earlier violation for her coach’s illegal coaching from the stands.
“You know how many other men do things that are much worse than that? This is not fair,” Williams insisted when talking to tournament referee Brian Earley and WTA supervisor Donna Kelso on the during the final with Naomi Osaka. “There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right.”
Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said after the match that he was coaching Williams, though he didn’t think Williams was looking at him at the time Ramos called the violation. Regardless, Mouratoglou said all coaches break the rule, and it had never been enforced on him before the U.S. Open final.
“[Saturday] also brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches,” Simon said in the statement. “We also think the issue of coaching needs to be addressed and should be allowed across the sport. The WTA supports coaching through its on-court coaching rule, but further review is needed.”
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