Federer wins Hopman Cup with Switzerland for record third time

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PERTH, Australia — Roger Federer won the Hopman Cup for a record third time after defending champion Switzerland beat Germany 2-1 on Saturday.

Switzerland took its fourth Hopman Cup title overall when Federer and Belinda Bencic beat Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 4-0, 1-4, 4-3 (4) in the Fast4 format in the mixed doubles decider.

In the men’s singles, Federer defeated fourth-ranked Zverev 6-4, 6-2.

Ahead of his Australian Open title defense, the 37-year-old Federer didn’t drop a set in four singles matches at the tournament, beating Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie and Zverev.

“I’m happy I’m feeling this good and playing as well as I am,” Federer said. “It’s good to finish on a singles performance like this. I’m a bit surprised that the matches have gone as well as they have.”

Switzerland won the third-set tiebreaker in the mixed doubles after Zverev hit the ball into the net on the winner-takes-all point. Germany had earlier wasted a championship point.

Federer’s impressive stroke play countered the power of Zverev in the singles before the Swiss earned a crucial break in the 10th game of the first set. Federer broke his German opponent early in the second set on his way to victory in 70 minutes.

Kerber leveled with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) win over Bencic.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, first won the Hopman Cup in 2001, joining forces with Martina Hingis to beat the United States in the final.

Federer and Bencic last year defeated the same German pair of Zverev and Kerber in the final.

Switzerland also won in 1992.

The Australian Open starts Jan. 14.

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.