Novak Djokovic can help Serbia win its first Hopman Cup. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/AP
Serbia is back for a fourth tilt at the Hopman Cup and the third time Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic have been paired together. After losing the 2008 final to the United States, the Serbs should have broken their duck in 2011, but Ivanovic sustained an abdominal injury which forced them out of the final.
Djokovic has an outstanding record at the tournament, as you would expect from the man ranked world number one. He has won eight of his ten singles rubbers and has a 7-3 doubles record. If Ivanovic holds up her end of the bargain – and she should as the highest ranked female player at the event – then Serbia should be holding up the cup at the end of the tournament.
Alongside Serbia in Group A are Italy , Germany and Australia . The Italians are seeded third, but men’s representative Andreas Seppi has a 0-9 record against Djokovic , and is unlikely to cause him too many problems when the teams meet. Ivanovic has won all four matches against Francesa Schiavone , as well, so the German pairing of Tommy Haas and Andrea Petkovic look more dangerous on paper. Petkovic was ranked 10th in the world before ankle, knee and back injuries curtailed her 2012 season. Ivanovic has won both their meetings on indoor hardcourt, but the German won their other encounter on grass in 2010. Tommy Haas experienced a renaissance year aged 34, but he lost both contests with Djokovic in 2012.
Australia has a young combination with temperamental Bernard Tomic combining with starlet Ashleigh Barty, who is the country’s best female prospect since Samantha Stosur. Casey Dellacqua was meant to be in the team, but a persistent foot injury forced her to pull out, giving Barty an opportunity to work in to the summer of tennis against some very high quality opponents.
On the other side in Group B, the United States combination of John Isner and Venus Williams is the standout pairing. Isner won the Hopman Cup for the U.S. in 2011 alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but this is Williams’ first appearance at the Perth-based event. Isner’s massive serve makes him a dangerous opponent at the best of times, and he and Mattek-Sands went through the 2011 event unbeaten in the often vital mixed doubles rubber.
Spain has the ever-consistent Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues, while the South African duo of Kevin Anderson and journeywoman Chanelle Scheepers probably won’t cause the Americans too many problems. The Spaniards are seeded fourth, and had an opportunity to qualify for last year’s final before they were rolled in both singles matches by a France team featuring Richard Gasquet and Marion Bartoli.
The wildcards could be this year’s French pair of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mathide Johansson, which is seeded seventh. Isner is 3-1 lifetime against Tsonga and won both their matches in 2012, but the Frenchman won their only encounter on an indoor hardcourt at the Paris Masters the year before. Johansson probably won’t trouble her opponents in the singles, but Tsonga has won four doubles tournaments throughout his career and been a finalist on three other occasions, so it will be interesting to see whether his flair-filled game will be able to carry his team.
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