The Hopman Cup Preview: A Look Into Tennis’s Most Underrated Exhibition - UBITENNIS
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The Hopman Cup Preview: A Look Into Tennis’s Most Underrated Exhibition

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Andy Murray serves in his singles match against Kenny De Schepper during day two of the 2016 Hopman Cup. (Source: Paul Kane/zimbio.com)

by Cody Fitzpatrick

The 2017 tennis season will kick off on January 1 in Perth, Australia with the 29th Hopman Cup, a mixed-gender international team tournament headlined by the always-controversial Nick Kyrgios, teen phenom Alexander Zverev, and all-time great Roger Federer.

This will be Federer’s first appearance in the event since 2002. In its 2001 edition, he and Martina Hingis won the title 2-1, over the Monica Seles-led United States team.

The tournament, named for Australian tennis legend Harry Hopman, has morphed over the years from a competitive battleground for top players into more of a fun warmup for the Happy Slam. And with FAST 4 scoring (no let calls, no ad, four games win a set, tiebreak to five at 3-3) being used in the tournament’s mixed doubles matches this January, the ITF event will look more like an exhibition than ever.

Still, the 2017 competition looks to be captivating, if for no other reason, because the Australian Open is right around the corner.

The Field

Group A

Germany:
Despite the absence of world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, Germany are slated to be one of the most exciting teams in the tournament. The reason: Alexander Zverev. At 19 years old and 6 feet 6 inches tall, Zverev is by nearly all accounts the games most promising teenager. Having won St. Petersburg in September, he’s already cracked the top 25. Zverev’s teammate, Andrea Petkovic, isn’t too bad either.

Switzerland:
Thanks to the IPTL debacle from earlier in December, Perth Arena is the new expected site of Roger Federer’s long-awaited return to tennis. Federer, who announced in July that he would be missing the remainder of the 2016 season to recover from his knee surgery, will pair up with 19-year-old Belinda Bencic in what will be a crucial tuneup for the fast-approaching Australian Open.

Great Britain:
Team GB — featuring 2016 Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Heather Watson and 2015 Davis Cup champion (though he lost both rubbers he competed in) Dan Evans — hope to win their first Hopman Cup title in the tournament’s 28-year history. Watson was close in 2016, when she and Andy Murray went 2-1 in the group stage, losing to eventual champions Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova.

France:
While neither team member has a top-1o singles ranking, France — represented by Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic  — cannot be written off. The duo have a combined four Grand Slam doubles titles, and Mladenovic currently shares the No. 2 doubles ranking with countrywoman Caroline Garcia. Gasquet, a men’s doubles bronze medalist in the London Olympics, made the Hopman Cup final in 2012 alongside Marion Bartoli, falling Czech Republic’s Tomáš Berdych and Petra Kvitová.

Mladenovic recently split with her coach, Georges Goven.

Group B

Australia:
In a Hopman Cup first, Australia fielded two teams for the 2016 competition — Australia Gold, consisting of Jarmila Wolfe and an almost-retired Lleyton Hewitt, and Australia Green, which showcased up-and-comers Nick Kyrgios and Daria ‘Dasha’ Gavrilova. The latter won the tournament, and are back to be Australia’s (only) representatives in 2017.

As anyone who pays any attention to Nick Kyrgios knows, anything is possible when he takes the court.

United States:
The United States have more Hopman Cup titles than any other team, with six. This January, unintentional doubles stars Jack Sock and Coco Vandeweghe will try to add to that total. Sock, who has two doubles Grand Slams and two doubles Olympic medals, has been taking a big step back from doubles in order to focus on singles. Vandeweghe, a twice-over Grand Slam mixed finalist herself, seems to be playing doubles only on her coach’s orders.

Of course, they’re both pretty dangerous on the singles court as well.

Czech Republic:
Before the deeply disturbing events of December 20, two-time Wimbledon singles winner Petra Kvitová was set to be the female half of the Czech Republic team. But with Kvitová now out, Czech No. 9 Lucie Hradecká will  be stepping up to take her place. While no one could ever fill the void left by the four-time winner of the WTA’s Sportsmanship Award, Hradecká — with three doubles Slams, two Olympic medals and five Fed Cups — should be a perfectly suitable replacement.

She may even have to carry the team, as her partner — No. 75 Adam Pavlásek — has played only six tour-level matches. Pavlásek did, however, beat then-No. 20 Fabio Fognini in the Hopman Cup’s 2015 tournament (though he also lost to John Isner and Vasek Pospisil that same week).

Spain:
With four Davis Cup titles, Feliciano Lopez is no stranger to international competition. And Spain’s other delegate, Lara Arruabarrena, won two titles in both singles and doubles in 2016. So who knows? Maybe Spain’s fifth and third best players can shock the world.

Schedule of play

Sunday 1 Jan Czech Republic v USA
Australia v Spain
Monday 2 Jan France v Germany
Switzerland v Great Britain
Tuesday 3 Jan USA v Spain
Australia v Czech Republic
Wednesday 4 Jan France v Great Britain
Switzerland v Germany
Thursday 5 Jan Czech Republic v Spain
Australia v USA
Friday 6 Jan Germany v Great Britain
Switzerland v France
Saturday 7 Jan FINAL: Winner Group A v Winner Group B

The Hopman Cup may not be what it was in its heyday, but it still attracts many of tennis’s top players and most passionate fans. And if nothing else, it sure is fun to watch.

 

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Daria Kasatkina And Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Lead Calls For VAR In Tennis

There have been calls for VAR to be introduced into the sport.

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Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina have called for VAR to be implemented in tennis.

The calls have came after Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik in Dubai.

As Bublik lead 6-5 in the final set, Rublev shouted in the face of an umpire allegedly swearing in Russian which was picked up by one of the officials.

This saw Rublev be disqualified from the event with Bublik reaching the final in Dubai.

However as a result of the incident players have called for a VAR review system with the video showing inconclusive proof of whether Rublev did swear in Russian.

Leading the calls for such innovation are Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the duo called for VAR to be introduced on twitter, “So you can just disqualify a player, take away all his points and money, without even checking the video? What a joke, yet another confirmation that we need VAR in tennis and an electronic appeal system in all tournaments,” Kasatkina said on social media.

VAR has been implemented in football and also a similar system in rugby with mixed results.

It’s clear though that more technology would help umpires identify whether a grounds for disqualification would be necessary.

So far VAR has been trialled at the Next Gen Finals and the Nitto ATP Finals.

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Casper Ruud Overcomes ‘Tough Start’ To Set De Minaur Final In Acapulco

Casper Ruud is into his first ATP 500 final after defeating Holger Rune in three sets.

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Casper Ruud is into his second consecutive final in Mexico after defeating Holger Rune 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Acapulco.

The Norwegian had to overcome an electric start from Rune to prevail in 2 hours and 24 minutes.

It was a clinical performance from Ruud who is now into his second consecutive final in Mexico after reaching the final in Los Cabos last week.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted it was a tough start but he’s pleased to be in another final, “It was a tough start,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game. I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second.

“I didn’t really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn’t feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.

“Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

Ruud is now into his first ATP 500 final in Acapulco where he will face defending champion Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Jack Draper after the Brit retired at 4-0 down in the deciding set.

Heading into Saturday’s final, De Minaur leads the head-to-head 1-0 although that was in a completely different scoring format in the Next Gen Finals.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Ruud will return to the world’s top ten.

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Andrey Rublev Disqualified In Dramatic Dubai Semi-Final

Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final in Dubai.

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Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik after being accused of swearing in Russian.

The event took place in Dubai where Rublev had more than enough opportunities to win the match having been 4-2 40-0 up in the deciding set.

However Bublik came back into the match as he caught up with Rublev in what was turning into a fascinating contest.

The score was at 6-5 Bublik when Rublev’s frustrations boiled over when he allegedly told the official at the side of the court that he was a ‘f****** moron’ in Russian.

One of the officials on the sidelines at the side of the court reported the incident and the supervisor ruled that Rublev should be defaulted.

The incident below means that Rublev will now lose all his ranking points and prize money, resulting in Rublev exiting the world’s top five.

An ending that didn’t warrant the dramatic contest and after the match Bublik agreed that the consequences, “I highly doubt Andrey said something crazy,” Bublik was quoted by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s not this kind of guy. But I guess that’s the rules. That’s what they did, they just follow the procedure.”

Bublik will hope for a smoother finish to the final when he takes on Ugo Humbert for the title.

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