PERTH • Roger Federer's comeback from injury hit its first hurdle yesterday when he was beaten by teenager Alexander Zverev at the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth.
In a high-quality match, Federer showed plenty of the class which has won him a record 17 Grand Slam titles, but could not quite hold off the bold 19-year-old German.
The 35-year-old was left to rue his failure to serve out the first set when leading 5-3 as Zverev took a match ultimately decided by three tie-breakers, 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), in 21/2 hours.
It was Zverev's second straight win over Federer, having beaten him in Germany last June.
Federer, whose team won 2-1, was upbeat despite his loss to a player he believes will be a star over the next decade.
"It was good to play for 21/2 hours," he said. "Sasha (Zverev) can serve big and showed what he can do, but I was happy how I hung around and I had some really good moments."
It was only Federer's second match since a six-month layoff due to knee and back injuries following his win over England's Dan Evans on Monday.
But the Swiss - who is out of the top 10 for the first time since late 2002 - said he is on the right track for the upcoming Australian Open.
"I am very happy, I have played five good sets," he said. "I am very pleased, practice has gone great, the matches have been a lot of fun and I am playing good tennis."
At the Brisbane International, reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka saw off Serbia's Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 to move into the quarter-finals.
In the women's tournament, world No. 1 Angelique Kerber defeated Ashleigh Barty 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and will be up against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.