Serena and Fed fans, no need to panic ... yet

Serena Williams and Roger Federer each won just one match this week before falling in Australian Open tuneup events. Getty Images

The return of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, arguably the greatest players in tennis history, was anything but triumphant this week. Each of them won exactly one match before faltering Wednesday.

But take a few deep breaths, Federer and Williams fans. Unclench your fists. Relax. Things may not be all that bad.

Federer's loss to Alexander Zverev occurred in a hybrid Davis/Fed Cup-style event, the Hopman Cup. The 17-time Grand Slam champ entered it to work out what kinks are left from a six-month absence from the tour because of knee surgery. He was, to use the expression he popularized, "gathering information."

Besides, Federer lived to fight another day alongside Swiss partner Belinda Bencic. The two might yet win the Hopman Cup, although it's unlikely that doing so would lead the city fathers of Basel to erect statues of them to commemorate the achievement. It is, after all, just an exhibition.

What might be of greater concern to Federer at the moment is the information he collected about Zverev's continuing progress.

An importunate 19-year-old German already ranked No. 24, Zverev split his two matches with Federer in 2016. His win over the Swiss icon was on Federer's beloved grass, no less. Zverev, a 6-foot-6 tower of power, put 80 percent of his booming first serves into play in a match decided by three tiebreakers, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4).

"He's very good," Federer told the press after losing. "He didn't really need to show me that again tonight. I knew that from [previous matches in] Rome and Halle."

That might sound bitter, but that isn't really Federer's way. He keeps a pair of rose-tinted glasses handy for moments like these and lost no time slipping them on. It's part of his genius.

"It was good to play for 2½ hours," he said. "That's a great number to compete in, and that was why I was really trying to push to win that second set, to extend the match and get me into a long, tough match, then who knows, maybe win it."

All is good, then, in Fedlandia. And if you look at the record, things aren't so grim in Williamsville, either, despite a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4 loss to fellow American Madison Brengle.

Serena has won six Australian Open titles, and she's won a number of tuneup events for the first major of the year. But one of the few things she's never accomplished in her career is winning an Aussie Open warm-up and the main event in the same year.

Williams lost in Sydney to Elena Dementieva in 2009 and 2010 yet won the Australian Open both times.

In 2007, Williams lost in the Hobart quarterfinals against No. 56 Sybille Bammer. The loss led to much weeping and gnashing of teeth, because Williams was ranked No. 94 and just emerging from a dark period marked by deep personal concerns. She went on to craft one of her greatest Grand Slam wins just a few weeks later in Melbourne.

Now consider: In 2013 and 2014, Williams was triumphant in Brisbane. Her final-round opponent each time was Victoria Azarenka. But just weeks later, Williams would fizzle at Rod Laver Arena.

Her loss to Brengle on Wednesday was marred by heavy winds that contributed to Williams' exorbitant 88 unforced errors.

She later told reporters she "abhorred" the conditions, adding, "I can take solace in the fact the conditions won't be like this in Melbourne."

It sounds a lot like Williams is ready. Federer, too. So hold the tears -- for now, anyway.