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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Iga Swiatek Demands Talks With ITF And WTA After Withdrawing From Billie Jean King Cup

Iga Swiatek is not happy with the ITF and WTA after withdrawing from the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

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Iga Swiatek (@IgaSwi_France - Twitter)

The world number one has announced that she will not compete at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November after criticising tennis’ governing bodies for not looking after player welfare.

 

The event is set to take place the week after the WTA Finals in Glasgow which causes a huge problem and obstacle for many players.

This is definitely the case for Swiatek who has qualified for the WTA Finals which takes place in Texas on the 31st of October.

A huge dilemma which now means Swiatek will not compete for her country at the Billie Jean King Cup.

Speaking on Instagram the Pole criticised the decision from the ITF and WTA and wants to speak to them about player welfare to prevent future decisions from happening, “I was thinking it through a lot and discussing it with my team all over again, but I will not be able to play at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow,” Swiatek said in her Instagram story.

“And it makes me sad. I’m very sorry because I play for Poland whenever it’s possible and I always give it my best. Playing in Poland this year was an honour and I hoped to do this again at the end of the season.

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone. This situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.

“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our fans.”

It’s clear Swiatek wants change in terms of player welfare and communication between governing bodies on how to facilitate the schedule.

However Swiatek now turns her attention to preparing for the WTA Finals and first up for the Pole is Ostrava this week.

In her opening match Swiatek will face either Ajla Tomljanovic or Shuai Zhang.

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Cameron Norrie Withdraws From Tokyo After COVID Positive Test

Cameron Norrie will miss the rest of the Asian swing due to COVID.

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Cameron Norrie (@the_LTA - Twitter)

After withdrawing from his quarter-final in Seoul, Cameron Norrie has now withdrawn from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo.

 

The Brit’s absence from the latter stages of the ATP 250 event in South Korea, raised eyebrows with Norrie suffering from illness.

However Norrie then withdraw from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo where he was due to play Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Now his absence has been explained as Norrie confirmed on social media that he tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement originally posted on Instagram, Norrie explained he had no symptoms but has to quarantine in his hotel room in Seoul, “Unfortunately I had a positive COVID test in Korea and wasn’t able to compete in the rest of my matches,” Norrie said.

“I have no symptoms and I am feeling 100%. It’s been a complicated situation and I appreciate the Republic of Korea trying their best to be amicable in a very tough situation.

“I was really hoping to go to Tokyo but because of the quarantine period I will not be able to play there. Looking forward to getting back to Europe for the indoors. See you guys soon!”

This is the second time Norrie has tested positive for COVID with the first time being before the start of the season.

Norrie’s scheduled next tournament will be in Stockholm which will take place on the 17th of October.

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Carlos Alcaraz Faces Rune Test In Astana

Carlos Alcaraz leads a stacked field in Astana next week.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz returns to the ATP tour next week in Astana next week where he faces Danish talent Holger Rune.

 

The world number one plays his first ATP tournament since winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and becoming the youngest world number one in history.

Having qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, Alcaraz will now look to build momentum over the coming weeks for the event in Turin.

First up for Alcaraz is the ATP 500 event in Astana next week where the Spaniard faces a tough opening round in the form of Danish talent Holger Rune.

The Dane reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros earlier this year but had struggled for form since then.

However Rune has reached the semi-finals in Sofia this week and is hitting form at the right time so this will be a big test for Alcaraz.

Should Alcaraz get through that test than a potential second round meeting with Stan Wawrinka could be on the cards with the Swiss wildcard facing Adrian Mannarino in his opening match.

Andrey Rublev is the player that could face Alcaraz in the last eight with the eighth seed facing a qualifier in his opening round match.

Rublev is one of a number of players who are chasing the remaining spots at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Also in the top half of the draw is Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz with Tsitsipas facing Mikhail Kukushkin.

While Hurkacz faces Francisco Cerundolo and a potential second round match against home favourite Alexander Bublik could await in round two.

In the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic will continue his search for a surge up the rankings against Cristian Garin.

Djokovic’s potential quarter-final is Jannik Sinner who begins against tricky serve and volleyer Oscar Otte.

Daniil Medvedev is also taking part in a stacked field in Astana as he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opening round match.

In the bottom quarter there is also an intriguing opening round match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Roberto Bautista Agut.

Here is the full draw with play starting on Monday:

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