We’re still nearly three months away.
But the launch of the 2019 Hopman Cup already has targeted the big day: New Year’s Day 2019.
That’s when Team Switzerland takes on Team USA.
And that means that two of the best of all time, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, will square off on court in mixed doubles.
Those are two pretty big gets for the exhibition event, which could well be in its final edition if the new ATP team event starts up, as planned, in 2020.
So if this is the finale, that’s quite a way to go.
Federer will again team up with Belinda Bencic to defend their 2018 title. Williams will pair with young countryman Frances Tiafoe, making his first appearance.
Young, attractive field
If the field appears, at first glance, to lack a little star power (having those two legends is already enough), tournament director Paul Kilderry did point out that it includes four Grand Slam singles champions (Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza are the others), three top-10 players (Federer, Zverev, Kerber) and eight top-20 players.
Already announced was the new “it” tennis couple from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari.
From Great Britain, no Andy Murray or Johanna Konta. Instead, they’ll have the duo of Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulte – an impossibly good-looking combo.
With Muguruza will be … David Ferrer. And you thought the 36-year-old, currently ranked No. 147 and playing a Challenger in Monterrey, was done? Apparently not.
You’d have to think, if he’s going all the way Down Under, that Ferrer plans to play one more Australian Open as well. Perhaps that’s why he’s still out there on the Challenger circuit this week, trying to squeeze into the Melbourne main draw.
Barty and Ebden for Australia
Our thinking was that the most glam matchup for the home team would have been the off-field couple, Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic.
It’s always an extra bit of fun when real-life couples play mixed doubles together.
Absent that, they’ve come up with top Aussie woman Ashleigh Barty and 30-year-old Matthew Ebden, who’s ranked fourth in the country behind Kyrgios, young Alex de Minaur and John Millman.
The French team of Lucas Pouille and Alizé Cornet, who won the event in 2014 with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are in the field.
Kerber and Zverev, last year’s finalists, also team up again and have by far the best combined ranking in the field.
Draws already done
To be able to start promoting Serena vs. the Fed, you had to have the round-robin draw done.
And so it is. Looks like Group B is the tougher group. But only one of those tandems can make the final.
Dec. 29 kickoff with the Greeks
The schedule is here. The proceedings kick off with Great Britain vs. Greece on Saturday, Dec. 29 (coming up before you know it).
There is no session on New Year’s Eve evening or on New Year’s Day. The event always has a pretty fantastic New Year’s Eve party – and they definitely have the field to gussy it up. (Remember when Marat Safin showed up after a rough night back home in Moscow, his face all bruised up?)
The USA vs. Switzerland tussle will be New Year’s night.
New this year at the event, it’s free kids’ ticket day for all day sessions.
You hope this isn’t really, truly the last-ever Hopman Cup. The event has been around since 1989, when Czechoslovakia’s (!!!) Helena Sukova and Miloslav Mecir defeated Australia’s (!!) … Hana Mandlikova and Pat Cash in the final.
(Mandlikova’s Aussie citizenship didn’t last nearly as long as the event).
Here’s their history roll, with some classic pics.
It’s built up a lovely tradition. And the players seem to have a blast playing it. No doubt this year they’ll have a lovely tribute to Lucy Hopman, the wife of the legendary Aussie coach for whom the event is named. Hopman passed away during the US Open, at the age of 98.
A Florida resident, she made it to Perth every year until 2018, when she was 94.
If you wanted to hear from ITF president David Haggerty – the Hopman Cup is under the ITF umbrella – here is his requisite press release quote.
“We are delighted once again to see such a strong entry for the 2019 Mastercard Hopman Cup, the ITF’s mixed team competition, at the start of the new tennis season. The ITF team competitions, which also include Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, give players a special opportunity to represent their countries, one that they value long after their playing days are over,” Haggerty said.
“Hopman Cup also offers fans a unique chance to see some of the game’s biggest names team up to play mixed doubles, which remain some of the most popular matches of the week. I would like to recognize our title sponsor Mastercard, and all the other sponsors and partners who continue to support the Hopman Cup.”
Looks like he got ALL the sponsors covered there. As one does.