The likely demise of the Hopman Cup after three decades of the unique mixed teams tennis tournament has been greeted with sadness by players at this year’s edition, with Serena Williams calling the prospect “heartbreaking”.
Swiss duo Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic beat Germans Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final in front of a sell-out crowd in Perth, but it is expected to be the last instalment of the event.
A dramatic finish to what was arguably the best Hopman Cup ever — which also saw Federer and Serena face off for the first time in a historic mixed doubles clash — came down to a single match point shared by both sides in the final.
However, the event is widely tipped to be scrapped to make way for the new ATP World Team Cup, which will start next year.
While Tennis Australia has a contract with the West Australian State Government to run the ITF-sanctioned tournament until 2022, the new ATP event would make it very hard for the Hopman Cup to attract top men’s players.
American superstar Serena, who was playing in Perth for the fifth time in her career and has won the title twice, said she was unaware of speculation on the Hopman’s fate, but that she was upset by the prospect of it vanishing.
“Obviously it would be heartbreaking,” she said.
German world number two Kerber, who has reached successive finals in the past two Hopman Cups, was saddened by the news.
“I really love the tournament,” she said. “We all will be sad that it is the last time at Hopman Cup.
“Playing here as a team with your partner, playing the mixed which is exciting, I will miss it.”
Launched in 1989 by former Australian players Paul McNamee and Charlie Fancutt and named after Australian tennis great Harry Hopman, the Hopman Cup has been used as preparation for the Australian Open by three decades of players and has held a unique place in the tennis world as the only top level mixed teams tournament.
– ‘Unbelievable event’ –
Swiss legend Roger Federer, with five appearances in Perth including one partnered with his future wife Miroslava Vavrinec back in 2002, said it would be “a pity” if the event did not continue.
“We had an unbelievable event here for so many years — the Hopman Cup has been very successful from a player’s viewpoint,” the three-time winner said.
“The players have always enjoyed this event, so let’s hope it continues in some shape and form,” said Federer, adding that he believed a mixed teams event was good for tennis.
“Where and how and what, honestly I don’t know,” he added.
Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, who played four times at the Hopman and won the title with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2014, was mortified by the prospect of the event disappearing.
“That would be the worst thing ever,” she said.
“Losing the Hopman Cup after losing Davis Cup and everything that is happening with the ITF, I think it’s a big shame.
“I think people, what they enjoy about this competition, is the fact that it’s mixed.
“It’s just a unique and special competition and losing it, I would be very sad.”
Zverev, beaten in the final two years in a row, said he hoped there would be a chance to atone and that he hadn’t played his last Hopman match.
“It will be tough to swallow because I will remember this as our last ever match,” he said.
“It was a great match, but we came so close and lost it, so I hope there will be many more chances to play the Hopman Cup.”