2015 Hopman Cup Preview
Steen Kirby and Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP and WTA Season will officially kickoff with another edition of the Hopman Cup from Perth, Australia. Eight star studded national teams featuring an ATP and WTA player will battle it out in a split groups format to determine this years champion. Here is a preview of all the action.
ITF Team Event
January 4-January 10, 2014
Prize Money: $1,000,000
Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, United States
The second best Canadian male player, Vasek Pospisil, will form part of the Canadian tandem at the Hopman Cup. He reached a career high ranking of 25 last season, but ended up finishing the year just outside the top 50, with a 20-23 ATP level singles record. He struggled in the second half of the season, not winning consecutive matches at any tournament after making the final in Washington. That said he reached one ATP final, an ATP semifinal and three ATP quarterfinals in 2014 and appears close to capturing his first ever ATP title. Vashy also is a very accomplished doubles player as he won 3 doubles titles, partnering with Jack Sock in 2014, including the Wimbledon title. Overall, the talented doubles pairing reached five ATP doubles finals, including a Masters final in Cincinnati. Given Pospisil’s ability to be successful in both doubles and singles, along with Bouchard being a top player herself, team Canada looks to be one of the favorites to take home the Hopman Cup.Embed from Getty Images
The WTA representative for Canada is their number 1 ranked player, Eugenie Bouchard. Bouchard translated her junior success to senior success in 2014. Genie had a breakthrough year where she reached the Wimbledon final and ended the year as world number 7. The 20 year old has an aggressive game, and looks to take the ball as early as she possibly can. Bouchard will be making her second straight Hopman cup appearance. In 2014 she partnered Milos Raonic, but they couldn’t make the final as Canada finished second in group A.
Adam Pavlasek, who has yet to break the worlds top 200, and at age 20 is the lowest ranked male participant in this years Hopman Cup, will team up with Lucie Safarova to represent his country. Pavlasek is most notable for formerly dating Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova and beyond a pair of futures titles, failed to do anything particularly notable in 2014. That said, unheralded players have stepped up and performed well in the Hopman Cup before, and perhaps Pavlasek can put some good matchplay together and pull off some surprises.Embed from Getty Images
Partnering the youngster will be the experienced Lucie Safarova. Safarova knows how it feels to win for her country, as she was part of the Czech Republic team that won the Fed Cup last year. The 27 year old previously competed in the Hopman cup in 2008 where she partnered Tomas Berdych. Lucie had her best season to date in 2014, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and finishing a career high, 14 in the world rankings. The leftie proved a difficult opponent for everyone on tour during the year
ItalyEmbed from Getty Images
In one of the most interesting pairings at this year’s Hopman Cup, the combustible Fabio Fognini will be partnering with his girlfriend, the veteran Flavia Pennetta as they look to put up a good showing for the Italian team. Fognini peaked just inside the top 15 in 2014, but finished the year at number 20 as he tanked the second half of the season and failed to win consecutive matches after reaching the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. Given the Italian team is better suited for a clay court surface, they are underdogs in this group, and are likely to be most interesting for the fireworks they might produce.
Flavia Pennetta will partner The Fog in this year’s competition. The 32 year old will be making her third Hopman cup appearance, and will be partnering Fognini for the first time on the court. Pennetta has tons of experience with this being her 15th year as a pro, and 2014 was one of her best on tour. The Italian finished 13th in the world and made the Quarter Finals in two majors. Flavia has also showed doubles prowess by reaching the US Open final with Hingis. She will no doubt be a threat in this tournament.
John Isner didn’t have his best season in 2014, but he still earned a couple of titles and finished inside the top 20 with a very positive 39-20 singles record. Isner had a pretty balanced year overall and of course he will be playing on his favorite surface, with the best WTA player in the game, so team USA will have a chance to add to their Hopman Cup resume this year. Isner doesn’t play doubles often, but he’s known to be at least component.Embed from Getty Images
You don’t get any better than Serena Williams in women’s tennis. The world number one has dominated the tour for years, and cemented that by winning her 18th major at the US Open. Serena has previously competed in the Hopman cup in 2003 and 2008. She won the title both times. If the past is anything to go by, the USA might just be favourites to win the tournament. With Williams you have the biggest serve on the WTA tour, and partnered with Isner you have a team that will be extremely difficult to break.
Group B: Australia, France, Great Britain, Poland
Formerly a top 70 player, Aussie Matt Ebden will be looking to bounce back in 2015, after a poor 2014 season that saw him finish outside the top 200 for the first time in over 3 seasons. The 27 year old Aussie baseliner went just 5-21 at the ATP level last season and didn’t make it past the second round of any tournament he played last year. The Aussies will have plenty of fan support, but have one of the weaker teams in this years tournament and are unlikely to win a lot of matches. There one strength is the fact both players have doubles ability, Ebden has won four ATP doubles titles in his career, including one last season, and Dellacqua has also had success with that side of the game.
Left hander Casey Dellacqua is heading into the tournament off the back of a good 2014 season which saw the 29 year old crack the world’s top 30. The Australian has also shown her talents in doubles, where she has reached the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments during her career. Dellacqua went one further in the mixed doubles in 2011, where she won the French Open title. The Perth native will be returning home to compete in her second Hopman cup. She only won one of her matches in the 2009 edition of the annual event.Embed from Getty Images
FranceEmbed from Getty Images
Benoit Paire, a talented underachiever at this point in his career, who struggled with knee problems in 2014, after formerly being ranked as high as 24 in the world in 2013, will be looking to rise back to that level in 2015. Paire, who is now 25, posted a pair of ATP quarterfinals last season and as usual provided a lot of excitement and passionate antics with his tennis. He has one career doubles title, but I would be surprised if team France repeated as Hopman Cup champions with this pairing of Paire and Cornet.
The defending champion is back to defend her title. Alize Cornet partnered Jo Wilfried Tsonga as the French team proved too much for the competition last year. That win was just the start for Alize, as the French woman went on to have one of her best seasons to date. Cornet won her 4th WTA title in Katowice and defeated top 10 players such as Serena Williams and Simona Halep during the year. The 24 year old will look to kick off her 2015 season in the same vein as last year, and defend the Hopman Cup title.
Andy Murray, who went through a transition year in 2014, as he was rehabbing from back surgery, and replaced Ivan Lendl with Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, will be looking to re-enter the top 5 in 2015. Murray went through some other changes in his coaching team in the offseason, but he finished 2014 on a strong note, winning all three of his ATP titles in 2014 after the US Open to help his bid to eventually qualify for the World Tour Finals. Murray faces some formidable talent ranked in front of him, and players like Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic are pressing on his heels from behind in the rankings, but he has a chance to get 2015 off to a great start and win the Hopman Cup for team GB. He’s the strongest singles player in the field, and has always done well for team GB in Davis Cup doubles. Murray comes off winning the Abu Dhabi exhibition, which will certainly be a boost for his mojo.Embed from Getty Images
Fellow British number one Heather Watson will partner Andy Murray in this year’s tournament. Watson recently suffered from mononucleosis, which saw the Brit fall outside the top 150. But the 22 year old rallied back to finish the year inside the top 50. Watson will bring a good blend of attack and defence to her maiden Hopman Cup tournament. Partnered with Andy Murray, Team GB will be hard work for anyone.
Jerzy Janowicz still has room to improve his tennis for sure but he slumped in 2014, and finished the year just 24-26 at the ATP level. He reached one ATP final, one ATP semifinal and a pair of ATP quarterfinals, in what was a disappointing season for the Polish male number one. Like many other participants, Janowicz is a capable doubles player, and with Radwanska being one of the best players on the WTA side of the field, team Poland will be one of the favorites.
Aga Radwanska is returning to Perth for her second Hopman cup appearance. She made the final in her debut last year and will look to go one better with her new partner, Jerzy Janowicz. The 25 year old is one of the craftiest players on the WTA tour, and that craft has seen her finish inside the top 10 yet again. The former Wimbledon finalist will be looking to express any improvements she has made under new coach Martina Navratilova.Embed from Getty Images
Canada d. Czech Republic
USA d. Italy
Italy d. Czech Republic
USA d. Canada
Canada d. Italy
USA d. Czech Republic
Poland d. Australia
Great Britain d. France
Poland d. Great Britain
France d. Australia
Poland d. France
Great Britain d. Australia
The USA should finish 3-0 in Group A, with their strongest test coming from team Canada in their second match. Canada likewise is likely to do well against Italy and the Czechs, as the USA and Canada have the strongest combined teams for a hard court surface.
In Group B, Radwanska should be enough to give Poland an edge over team GB, and like the USA, Poland should finish 3-0. Team GB with Murray is also formidable, while the Aussies will do well to win a match.
USA d. Poland
With Serena Williams in the ranks, Team USA will be too strong for the competition. Poland will once again reach the final, but fall short for the 2nd straight year as Isner and Janowicz effectively cancel each other out with their similar big serving styles, and Williams should defeat Radwanska.Embed from Getty Images