Hopman Cup Preview
After a winter break of exhibitions, practicing, relaxation and vacations, it’s time for the most talented athletes in tennis to get back to the grind and kick off the 2013 season and the Aussie Swing of the ATP and WTA tours. It all begins with the legendary Hopman Cup, a competitive, mixed gender, team based event. It is also time for the prognosticators at Tennis East Coast to get back in the swing of things.
Hyundai Hopman Cup
ITF Team Event
December 29-January 5, 2013
Prize Money $1,000,000
The format for the Hopman Cup features eight national teams of one male pro and one female pro broken into two groups. Each team will play the other three teams in their group one time and the teams that win the most in each group advance to the final showdown. Each matchup features a men’s singles match, a women’s singles match and a mixed doubles match: Whoever wins 2 matches out of 3 wins the national match.
Group A is composed of Germany, Australia, Italy and Serbia. Group B contains the USA, Spain, South Africa and France.
Germany’s male pro is Tommy Haas who had a memorable 2012 in which the still talented veteran finished at #21 in the world. At the age of 34, he managed to go an astounding 31-16 at the ATP level and grab an ATP title. He also took part in the Gillette Federer exo tour in South America this winter.He will be looking to keep the mojo going into 2013 and Germany will have a strong team. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU2S9aaT0ZI)
Which Andrea Petkovic will show up for Germany? Depending on her form, the former top tenner could turn the German team into a surprise Finalist. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
Bernard Tomic will represent the home country on the male side and will be looking to make some attention on the court for a change of pace. His “bad boy” image has really grown after a 2012 slump where he finished outside the top 50 and below .500 at the ATP level. He finished his year with 3 straight opening round ATP losses and was also dropped as the Australian Davis Cup team. His work ethic, motivation and his maturity have come into question and he needs a strong performance on home turf to begin to redeem himself.
16-year-old Aussie Ashleigh Barty displays no such problems. At #175, she’s made a tremendous push as a pro. Her competition is fierce, though and laden with veteran hands. It’s an honor to play at the Cup, and the former Wimbledon junior champ will be sure to make it a memorable outing.
Veteran Andreas Seppi will replace Gli Azzurri as its male pro. Seppi is coming off a sparkling 2012, in which he finished at a career high ranking of 22 and grabbed 2 ATP titles. Like Tommy Haas, his determination to excel is one of the great stories of the ATP tour and he looks to keep it going under the Australian sun.
Francesca Schiavone is the embodiment of the grizzled fierce competition for the likes of Ashleigh Barty. At 32, the former Roland Garros singles champion still has a few good years left and will be in the hunt for singles and doubles points as she tunes up for Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic leads Serbia in the Hopman Cup and makes them an early favorite going into the event. Djokovic has been working the exo circuit like other top pros this winter and will be looking to tune up for another Australian Open title.
Enter Ana Ivanovic. She comes into the Hopman Cup having quietly climbed up in the ratings to #13 without the titles and the trophies, and her pairing with Djokovic should make for a formidable mixed doubles team. Success by Ivanovic in Perth could very well foreshadow her chances for returning to Grand Slam glory in Melbourne later in the month.
The American team will feature its top ranked male pro John Isner, who had a good 2012 that featured 2 ATP titles but finished up the year in a bit of a funk. He will be looking to regroup during the Australian swing.
Venus Williams will be a crowd favorite and a powerful weapon for the US. The mixed doubles team will be strong as both of the Americans see a lot of two-on-two time.
The Spanish Armada will be represented by veteran Fernando Verdasco who always seems to perform well in Australia. He finished the fall indoor and hard court season singles wise on a pretty flat note (though he did well in doubles) and could use some wins to boost his confidence.
Annabel Medina Garrigues pairs up with Verdasco for the second year in a row.
Big man Kevin Anderson will be part of the only team other than Australia that is south of the Equator. Anderson is coming off a very flat 2012 in which he finished just inside the top 40. He tends to do his best on hard courts, though and should be able to do a bit of damage, at least on serve.
Newly married Chani Scheepers reps the Republic as well. She was ranked inside the top 30 only 5 months ago and has fallen to 50.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the highest ranked male player in Group B and though he lost all 3 of his matches at the ATP World Tour Finals, he still is in good shape to succeed in Perth and beyond.
Mathilde Johansson is not the top female player in La Republique, but she is the one here on their behalf. At #87, she’s been consistently unremarkable in the last few years. Her doubles play is not strong, either, and her selection diminishes the French squad.
Germany d. Australia
Serbia d. Italy
Germany d. Italy
Serbia d. Australia
Italy d. Australia
Serbia d. Germany
Haas/Petkovic are a strong pairing but the reliable Djokovic/Ivanovic should have the edge in this group. Seppi/Schiavone and Tomic/Barty will be scrapping for points.
Spain d. South Africa
USA d. South Africa
Spain d. France
USA d. France
USA d. Spain
France d. South Africa
In a much tighter group, Verdasco/Medina Garrigues and Tsonga/Johansson will both have chances at advancing but Isner/Williams should get through with their doubles experience.
Serbia d. USA
This will likely come down to the mixed doubles rubber but Djokovic/Ivanovic will likely prove too strong as competitors.
–Steen Kirby and Steve Fogleman