Why the Hopman Cup needs to be saved
The Hopman Cup is in danger of being abolished, as a new tournament called the ATP Cup has been scheduled next year in the same January slot before the Australian Open.
Does the Hopman Cup add value to the men's and women's tennis tours, and does it need to be saved? The short answer to both those questions is yes. But for that, there needs to be sufficient backing from the players and investment from the sponsors.
The Hopman Cup has proved to be a very popular pre-Australian Open warm-up for a number of players. Those include Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Belinda Bencic, Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
Federer is a huge supporter of the event, having prevailed alongside Bencic in winning Switzerland back-to-back Hopman Cup titles - in 2018 and 2019.
The Swiss even said he would be disappointed if the 2019 edition were to be the last Hopman Cup. The tournament helped him to bounce back into the sublime form that won him a 20th Grand Slam title at the 2018 Australian Open last year. And the organisers themselves benefited immensely from Federer’s presence, as they achieved record crowds in Perth who flooded in to watch the Swiss legend.
If Federer can galvanise support to save the tournament, he could perhaps be key to its survival.
One of the major factors behind the Hopman Cup’s record crowd figures was a once-in-a-lifetime Federer vs Serena Williams match-up. Much to the delight of the fans, the tournament successfully pitted the two tennis legends against each other in a competitive match this year.
The tennis icons featured in a group stage encounter between Switzerland and the United States, alongside partners Belinda Bencic and Frances Tiafoe.
The Hopman Cup can be instrumental in bringing tennis’ elite men’s and women’s athletes together. They can play either alongside each other for their countries or as opponents in this unique tennis surrounding.
For example, Spain were going to field both Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza this year, before the 17-time Grand Slam champion had to withdraw through injury. However, they were still able to play David Ferrer instead. Only the Hopman Cup can bridge the gender gap in tennis in such a fan-friendly fashion.
Not only have the fans benefited, but even young players such as Tsitsipas and Tiafoe have been able to learn from the likes of Federer and Williams. Someone like Bencic in particular has learned a lot playing alongside Federer; the experience she gathered in helping Switzerland win two titles in Perth was invaluable in developing her into a better player.
After the Hopman Cup, Bencic carried on her winning momentum by performing superbly to win the Dubai Open. After that she appeared in her first Indian Wells semifinal, defeating World No. 1 Naomi Osaka along the way.
Federer himself won Dubai a week after Bencic in the men’s format, clearly showing that both players gained immensely from featuring in the Hopman Cup.
As for the logistics, if the West Coast city of Perth is unavailable, there are likely to be other possible venues in the southern hemisphere - even New Zealand is a possible option. In the worst-case scenario, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) could choose a completely left-field choice like say Seoul in South Korea, which would be a very cool place to expand tennis' horizons.
A European venue such as Hamburg in Germany, or an Asian one like Singapore (which would be close to Melbourne, the venue for the Australian Open) could also be beneficial from a commercial standpoint.
Alternatively, the tournament could be moved forward a by week or two, to the end of December. That way it would still act as a warm-up event for the Australian Open, while remaining in Perth. This would occur prior to the ATP Cup, meaning there would be no clash.
If there is public demand in Perth and in the wider tennis community, then saving the tournament would certainly be possible. Having existed since 1989, the Hopman Cup needs to be saved from extinction.Published 23 May 2019, 22:02 IST