'Kiwi' Kiefer Excited to be Back in Perth
By Chris Pike
GERMAN veteran Nicolas Kiefer arrives back at the Hyundai Hopman Cup as his country's top-ranked male player and he's hoping a strong Cup can set up a strong 2009 for him.
Kiefer returns to Perth after first appearing at Hyundai Hopman Cup XVIII, and will provide the veteran leadership to the German team, with his partner exciting teenager Sabine Lisicki.
Kiefer is coming off an amazing 2008 that saw him make the final of the Masters Series Canada in July were he beat last year's Hyundai Hopman Cup winner Mardy Fish, Russian pair Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolai Davydenko, and fellow Hopman Cup participants for this year James Blake and Gilles Simon.
From there, he made the third round of the Olympic Games before being invited to be part of the season-ending Masters Cup. It was a strong year for the 31-year-old who went on to make his only Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open when he last appeared in Perth in 2006.
He enjoyed his Hyundai Hopman Cup experience that time and is glad to be back in Perth again.
"I have good memories from when I was here for the first time in 2006 and it's always nice to be back. I was chatting with Paul so many times and he invited me, and us as a German team, back again, so I'm really happy to be here," Kiefer said.
"It would be nice if I had the same Australian Open as last time I came here, I wouldn’t complain if that happened. This is my focus now though. We are here now and Australian Open is in four weeks, so that's still a fair way away.
"It's the best preparation for it because we get the chance to practice outdoor in the heat and then have the matches indoor against great opponents with three matches for sure, and three mixed doubles."
Germany begins its quest for a third Cup title on Monday's Session 3 taking on Australia, and that will see a tremendous men's match between Kiefer and Lleyton Hewitt. Despite Hewitt holding a 3-0 career record over Kiefer, the man known as 'Kiwi' is looking forward to the challenge.
"It's never easy to play against him, especially here in Australia but you have to take it how it comes. It will be a good atmosphere, I'm going to enjoy it and it's going to be a great game. He is always a tough competitor and never gives up," he said.
"It's the same for me, I like to fight and I like the one-on-one competition. The game is getting faster and faster, and you just get older and older, so you have to try to find different shots to be successful."
Kiefer is also looking forward to teaming with Lisicki for the first time, who broke into the world's top 50 in 2008, and he's feeling fresh and ready to go after a two-month break.
"This is the first time and I'm looking forward to it. She's a newcomer and only 19-years-old, so it's a good mixture," he said.
"Tennis-wise I can't say how I'm going because I haven’t played for a while, but physically I'm pretty good. Everybody knows the season is off for a long time and the last tournament was at the beginning of November, so it's almost eight weeks later, so honestly I don’t know how my form is."
Rather than spending Christmas back home in Sievershausen, Germany, Kiefer and his family were in Thailand and now they've all followed him to Perth.
"I was actually in Thailand and it was 30 degrees there, so it was better than Germany at this time of the year. My family was there, my parents are here in Perth and it's nice."