There’s still a long way to go in the 2017 season.
But let’s talk about the start of 2018 already, shall we?
One of the first events of the year is the Hopman Cup exhibition, a long-standing event held on the west coast of Australia in Perth.
This year’s dates are Dec. 30, 2017 to Jan. 6, 2018. There’s usually a rocking New Year’s Eve party involved, too.
The biggest thing about the 2017 edition was that it was where Roger Federer began his comeback, after six months away.
It was a perfect choice – matches against quality opposition, but with no pressure, to gauge his form. It worked out well for him a few weeks later in Melbourne at the Australian Open.
The good news in Perth this year, as the event announced the field on Wednesday, is that Federer is back.
That was actually the event’s first official announcement, all the way back in June. And it’s a major coup with no less than three ATP Tour events – Brisbane, Doha and the Maharashtra Open in Pune, India (formerly the Chennai tournament) no doubt vying for Federer’s $ervices.
Joining Federer on Team Switzerland will be Belinda Bencic, the 20-year-old who has had injury issues of her own. So this time, it will be her comeback.
Bencic has won just one match all year on the WTA Tour. And she was sidelinedwith a wrist injury from early May, until her return at an ITF event last week.
Federer did have an epic – a 7-6 (1) 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4) loss to his occasional practice partner Alexander Zverev.
But Switzerland didn’t actually win; France (Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic) defeated them in the round-robin portion and won the whole thing.
France isn’t among the eight teams for 2018. Neither are Great Britain, the Czech Republic or Spain – all of which took part in 2017.
Joining Federer and Bencic will be Zverev and Angelique Kerber for Team Germany.
Zverev played with Andrea Petkovic last year; this will be Kerber’s first appearance in Australia.
As well, Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Genie Bouchard will team up. Bouchard played with countryman Milos Raonic back in early 2014 – shortly before Bouchard’s big breakout result at the Australian Open.
Bouchard teamed up with Pospisil the following year in 2015. She defeated Serena Wiliams there, and then reached the Australian Open quarterfinals a few weeks later.
Russia’s Karen Khachanov will team up with Svetlana Kuznetsova.
For Australia, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Daria Gavrilova will represent.
David Goffin and Elise Mertens will play for Belgium
For the USA, Jack Sock and Coco Vandeweghe will fly the flag.
And, last but not least, Naomi Osaka and Yuichi Sugita of Japan fill out the field.
Switzerland, USA, Russia and Japan will be in Group B. Canada, Germany, Australia and Belgium will be in Group A, for round-robin purposes. They’ve already made the schedule, so fans can pick and choose what matchups they want to see well in advance.
Canada plays during the Sunday, Wednesday and Friday day sessions. Federer will play Saturday (vs. Japan), Tuesday (vs. Russia) and Thursday (vs. the USA) evenings.
That means Nick Kyrgios, the top Aussie, won’t be there.
But it’s a pretty interesting field nonetheless, with plenty of high-profile players on both sides.
The format is two singles, and then mixed doubles. Last year, they used the “Fast Four” format for the mixed.