The Hopman Cup, the mixed-gender competition that was one of the victims of the ATP Cup, the newly-created team competition organized by the ATP and Tennis Australia, is set to make a return during the 2021 season.
The recently re-elected President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) David Haggerty has confirmed during a phone interview with Reuters that plans are being made for a return of the competition during the next season: “Our plan is to re-introduce it for 2021. We don’t have plans for the Hopman Cup in 2020 but we are going out to the market for expressions of interest and we have already had quite a few enquiries.”
Of course, the original slot during the first week of January is no longer available, since it is now occupied by the ATP Cup, which will see its first edition take place between 3rd and 12th January 2020 in three Australian cities including Perth, Western Australia, that has hosted the competition since the beginning in 1989. That was really an ideal time of the year for such an event, with most players going to Australia after the winter training block and looking to play a few matches before the first Slam of the year a couple of weeks later in Melbourne.
“It could really be anywhere in the world and any time in the calendar,” confirmed Haggerty, who however failed to mention that it will be far from easy to find a more suitable slot in the ATP and WTA calendars to make the competition palatable for the big names that have played at the RAC Arena in Perth during the past editions. For example, last January Switzerland played the United States during a Round Robin tie, that traditionally consisted of one men’s singles, one women’s singles and a final mixed doubles; on that occasion the Hopman Cup showcased arguably the two most successful players of all times, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, in a mixed doubles match that represented an unparalleled promotional opportunity for tennis.
Top players nowadays are extremely careful with their scheduling and the presence of these marquee names can only be assured if the date of the competition does not interfere with their plans to perform at their best at Grand Slam events.
“The reason to do the expressions of interest is really to get the feedback from the nations and cities that have an interest and see what their proposal would be,” Haggerty added, “and I can confirm we have interest from every continent.”
It is reassuring to hear the ITF President so engaged in bringing back this very popular competition, but the position in the calendar is really crucial to the success and the livelihood of these events, and the ITF has very little clout to shuffle events around and make room for this “prodigal son”. Let’s not forget that the new multi-million dollar Davis Cup Finals, scheduled to take place in Madrid next month for the first time in its highly controversial new formula, is going to see its opening match start just a few hours after the end of the Nitto ATP Finals in London, in a scheduling jam that is likely to cost the participation of some of the big names to the kermesse at the Caja Magica. But the ITF only had that week available, all negotiations with the ATP were unfruitful and it was forced to hold its flagship event right at the end of the season when most players are exhausted and longing for a well-deserved break at the Maldives before the season starts again in Australia.
If the ITF couldn’t get a more suitable date in the calendar for its main event, what are the chances they will be able to get a decent slot for the Hopman Cup, a competition with far less tradition and that will require negotiations not only with the ATP but also with the WTA?
Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Greece’s Top Players Face Significant Opposition on Tuesday
Greece, the home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, saw its top male and female tennis player both suffer substantial heartache last month at Roland Garros. In the men’s singles championship match, Stefanos Tsitsipas was up two-sets-to-love against Novak Djokovic, before succumbing to the world No.1 in five sets. In the women’s singles semifinals, Maria Sakkari held a match point, but lost 9-7 in the third to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. Stefanos and Maria are entered into the mixed doubles event as a team, which will begin on Wednesday. But on Tuesday, they will partake in what should be two of the most competitive singles matches of the day.
Tuesday is scheduled to host all eight women’s singles round of 16 matches, as well as the eight remaining men’s singles second round matches. Also, the second round of both men’s and women’s doubles is scheduled to conclude. However, “scheduled” is the key word in those sentences, with potential rain in Tokyo’s forecast for the morning and the evening.
Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) [GRE] vs. Frances Tiafoe [USA]– 11:00am on Centre Court
This is a rematch from the first day of Wimbledon, when Tiafoe upset Tsitsipas on Court No.1 in straight sets. Tsitsipas was just 15 days removed from his French Open final defeat, and hadn’t played any matches on grass ahead of The Championships. Stefanos had claimed their first two meetings in straight sets. Frances played well in the opening round of both singles and doubles, as he and Rajeev Ram beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev. But the slow-playing hard courts in Tokyo should certainly favor the Greek. Tsitsipas went 23-5 on clay this season, compared to Tiafoe’s subpar record of 3-5. And overcoming Philipp Kohlschreiber in a tight three-set battle on Sunday should boost the confidence of the third seed.
Elina Svitolina (4) [UKR] vs. Maria Sakkari (14) [GRE] – Third on Centre Court
Svitolina has barely reached this stage, winning consecutive matches 6-4 in the third. By contrast, since falling behind in the opening set of her first round against Anett Kontaveit, Sakkari has rolled, dropping only five games across her last three sets. Sakkari also leads their head-to-head 2-1, and has prevailed in both their previous hard court meetings. Svitolina’s only victory came two years ago on the grass of The All England Club. Maria’s defensive skills rival that of Elina, but Svitolina’s offensive is not nearly as commanding as Sakkari’s. The combination of this slow surface and the speed of these two competitors should result in some grueling, compelling rallies. In the end, this is another matchup where Greece should be favored to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:
Naomi Osaka (2) [JPN] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Osaka is yet to be tested through two rounds. This will be her first meeting with Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up who has struggled to rediscover her form after getting injured shortly thereafter.
Marcos Giron [USA] vs. Kei Nishikori [JPN] – Nishikori upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in the first round. Giron is a 28-year-old American who recently reached a career-high ranking of 64th in the world, and is currently ranked four spots higher than Kei.
Barbora Krejcikova (8) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] – Roland Garros champion Krejcikova has now won 22 of her last 23 singles matches. Bencic hasn’t defeated a top 20 player since October of 2019. This clash of top 10 seeds is another first-time encounter.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Paula Badosa and Sara Sorribes Tormo [ESP] – Krejcikova also won the women’s doubles tournament at the French Open with partner Siniakova, their third Major as a team. Badosa and Sorribes Tormo are good friends who have been rooting each other on in singles, where both have reached the round of 16. Earlier in the day, Badosa will play Nadia Podoroska, while Sorribes Tormo will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz [GER] vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury [GBR] – Murray and Salisbury upset Roland Garros champions Herbert and Mahut in the first round. Krawietz and Puetz are both ranked inside the top 32 in men’s doubles, but they do not normally play as a team.
Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.
Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Nine Major Singles Champions in Action on Monday
The second round begins on Day 3 in both singles and doubles, with fascinating matchups throughout the day all around the Ariake Tennis Park. Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the headliners of this tennis event, and both will again be considerable favorites on Monday. But the most inspirational story of this event is Carla Suarez Navarro, who on Sunday earned her first singles win since announcing she is cancer-free just three months ago. In the second round, she faces Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova. On the men’s side, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic required an astounding 11 match points to advance in the first round. Now he’ll take on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who just a week ago won the biggest title of his career in Hamburg, Germany.
Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Karolina Pliskova (5) [CZE] vs. Carla Suarez Navarro [ESP] – Third on Court 3
Suarez Navarro played singles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but went down in three sets during the first round of both events. Yet on Sunday against Ons Jabeur, one of 2021’s best players, Carla earned her first singles victory since coming back from fighting Hodgkin Lymphoma. On Monday, she faces the WTA’s “Ace Queen,” who bounced back nicely from the disappointment of losing her second Major final by winning comfortably on Sunday. Pliskova’s former coach Rennae Stubbs highlighted on NBC’s coverage how Karolina, one of the tallest players on tour, will not mind the high-bouncing conditions on the courts in Tokyo. Their head-to-head has been rather even, with Pliskova holding a slight edge 4-3. However, Karolina has claimed their last three meetings, dating back to 2015. Pliskova’s level can fluctuate from day-to-day, and you certainly don’t want to underestimate the fight of Suarez Navarro, but the fire power of the fifth seed will be tough to overcome.
Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] vs. Marin Cilic [CRO] – Fourth on Court 1
Carreno Busta may be the seeded player, but he’s never beaten Cilic, who is 4-0 against the Spaniard. Three of those four victories came on hard courts. Marin has struggled in recent years, but rediscovered some strong form a month ago grass. Cilic was the champion in Stuttgart, and was two sets up on Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon before losing in five. Hard courts have not been as friendly to Cilic of late, but Carreno Busta has exceled on this surface. Pablo has reached the semifinals of the US Open twice in the last four years. Both men have previous success representing their countries: Cilic helped Croatia win the Davis Cup in 2018, with Carreno Busta doing the same for Spain a year later. But in tight matches, Pablo has been the far better performer over the last few years, and is a slight favorite to earn his first win over Marin.
Other Notable Matches on Monday:
Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Jan-Lennard Struff [GER] – Djokovic is 5-0 against Struff, dropping only one of 14 sets played.
Naomi Osaka (2) [JPN] vs. Viktorija Golubic [SUI] – Osaka looked pretty sharp in her opening round on Sunday, her first match in 56 days. 28-year-old Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist earlier this month at Wimbledon.
Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Sumit Nagal [IND] – On Saturday, Nagal became the first Indian man to win a singles match at the Olympics since 1996. Medvedev did not appear to enjoy the heat and humidity during his first round, yet still prevailed in straight sets.
Aryna Sabalenka (3) [BLR] vs. Donna Vekic [CRO] – Sabalenka surrendered only three games in her opening round win. Two years ago on a hard court in San Jose, she defeated Vekic in straight sets.
Iga Swiatek (6) [POL] vs. Paula Badosa [ESP] – Swiatek breezed through her first round match by a score of 6-2, 6-2, but Badosa is an impressive competitor in the midst of a breakout season, with 27 match wins.
Ash Barty and Storm Sanders (6) [AUS] vs. Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang [CHN] – Barty did not perform well in her first round singles loss, committing more than 50 unforced errors. But she and good friend Sanders remain one of the most formidable teams in the women’s doubles draw.
Monday’s full Order of Play is here.
Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Osaka, Murray, Barty Headline Sunday’s Play
Japan’s Naomi Osaka is one of the biggest stars of these Games. She is reportedly the world’s highest-paid female athlete, and even received the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron during Friday night’s opening ceremonies. But Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing from Roland Garros nearly two months ago. That was her reaction to the Grand Slam committee threatening to default her from the event after she stated she would not take part in press conferences, citing mental health concerns. So much has been said and written about Naomi over the past few months, but now she’ll let her tennis speak for itself.
Also on Sunday, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray faces Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who soundly defeated Murray at last summer’s US Open. Ash Barty will play her first singles match since winning Wimbledon two weeks ago, against the dangerous and highly-entertaining Sara Sorribes Tormo. And the top two Japanese men in the world both take on top 25-ranked Russians.
Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Sunday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Saisai Zheng – Second on Centre Court
Osaka has now won 41 of her last 47 matches, dating back to September of 2019. That also happens to be the last time she played in her home country, when she won the WTA event in Osaka, Japan. Notably, half of those six recent losses came on clay. On hard courts, Naomi is an astounding 39-3 during that same span. But Saisai can also play on this surface, as she was the champion two summers ago in San Jose. However, the 27-year-old from China is just 6-12 since March of 2020, and missed nearly a year of action due to the pandemic. She also does not possess the powerful serve or groundstrokes of Osaka. When these players met 18 months ago at the Australian Open, Naomi prevailed in straight sets. The result on Sunday should not be much different.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Centre Court
Felix’s straight-set win last year in New York came just two days after a five-set, nearly five-hour victory for Murray over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. Andy will be much fresher on Sunday, and should be feeling confident coming off an excellent win on Saturday in doubles alongside Joe Salisbury, as they took out French Open champions Mahut and Herbert. Darren Cahill pointed out during NBC’s coverage on Saturday how Murray rarely loses to an opponent twice in a row, as he studies what went wrong in his loss, and learns how to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses. Auger-Aliassime is coming off an excellent run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, an event where his close friend, Denis Shapovalov, defeated Murray. But with Andy perhaps in his best physical health in years, and considering his previous success representing his country at the Olympics, I like Murray’s chances of figuring out a way to grit his way to victory. Plus, Andy may not be as bothered by the heat and humidity as other players, due to the training he does in Miami, Florida.
Other Notable Matches on Sunday:
Ash Barty (1) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Barty is now a stellar 35-6 on the year, though Sorribes Tormo has tormented many top players this season. The 24-year-old Spaniard has played grueling matches against Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu, as well as a nearly four-hour encounter with Camila Giorgi.
Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Kei Nishikori – Nishikori was the bronze medalist in men’s singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s 1-0 against Rublev, though no one has won more matches since the start of last year than the Russian.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber – Tsitsipas has lost three of his last four matches, with the first being his heartbreaking loss in the French Open final. But he’s 2-0 against the veteran from Germany, with both victories coming on hard courts.
Aryna Sabalenka (3) vs. Magda Linette – Sabalenka is coming off her first deep run at a Major, losing in the Wimbledon semifinals to Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the third. Three years ago on a hart court in Tianjin, she defeated Linette 6-1, 6-3.
Karolina Pliskova (5) vs. Alize Cornet – How will Pliskova bounce back from her second loss in a Slam final? She is 3-1 against Cornet, though the Frenchwoman is a tricky opponent, who earned three top 20 wins last month on grass.
Hubert Hurkacz (7) vs. Marton Fucsovics – At Wimbledon, both men achieved their best career results at a Major. Three years ago in Cincinnati, Fucsovics outlasted Hurkacz in a third set tiebreak.
Garbine Muguruza (7) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Muguruza leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches contested on hard courts within the past 18 months.
Karen Khachanov (12) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka – Both players won epic five-setters at Wimbledon out on Court 18. At the 2019 Australian Open, Khachanov claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Greece’s Top Players Face Significant Opposition on Tuesday
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