Among other tennis actions in Australia, the annual Hopman Cup also got underway in the West Australian city of Perth on Sunday, January 4, 2015. The tournament carries the legacy of one of Australia’s greatest tennis player; Harry Hopman, in whose memory the event is staged every year. Hopman played for nearly 30 years and captained Australia to 16 Davis Cup titles between 1939 and 1967. He also won seven Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles, where his first wife Nell was his partner. Like every year, 8 best teams in the world participate in the event. These teams are divided into two Groups of 4 each and they play three matches on round-robin basis in their respective Groups. At the end of the league phase, the two top teams from each Group meet in the final. In its current format, teams play the men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles matches. This year, the Group A teams are; Canada, Czech Republic, Italy and USA and those in Group B are; Poland, France, Great Britain and Australia. France are the defending champions from last year, when they beat Poland 2-1 in a closely-fought battle and recorded their first-ever Hopman Cup win. On day one, two matches were played yesterday. In the first match, Czech Republic defeated Canada 2-1 in the scorching Perth heat while later in the evening Poland defeated hosts Australia 3-0. More than the matches, the talk about Australian summer and soaring temperatures occupied everyone.
In Sunday’s first match, Czech Republic beat Canada d 2-1. The first tie was a women’s singles match between the Czech Lucie Safarova and Eugenie Bouchard. The Canadian woman was particularly affected by the 410 Celsius temperature on the court and showed signs of withering in the sun as she lost the first set 0-6 almost without a fight. In the second set, Bouchard tried to raise her game but couldn’t match the all-court skills of Safarova. The Czech woman won the match 6-0, 6-4 in less than 70 minutes. Coming to Perth after a breakthrough 2014 season, the Wimbledon finalist and no.7 in the world couldn’t sustain the onslaught from Safarova, who didn’t want to yield an inch. In the following men’s singles match, Canada leveled up the score 1-1, when Vasek Pospisil defeated Adam Pavlasek 7-6, 6-2. After Bouchard lost, the onus rested on Pospisil to keep Canada in fray. But Pospisil’s efforts went in vain in the mixed doubles, when the pair of Pospisil/Bouchard lost 4-6, 2-6 to Lucie Safarova /Adam Pavlasek. Yet again it seemed that Bouchard was troubled by the intense heat. Bouchard’s sudden loss of form, for whatever reason, went in favor of the Czechs. With two more matches coming up against USA and Italy, Bouchard will have to make up for the lost match against Safarova and put up better show against Serena Williams and Flavia Pennetta.
In the second match of the opening day, played in cooler conditions, last year’s finalists, Poland blanked out host Australia 3-0. In the first match, Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-3. The world no.6 Pole Radawanska proved to be too good for Dellacqua, whose shot making was highly unimpressive, as she faltered on key points. In the men’s singles, Jerzy Janowicz began by losing the first set to Matt Ebden, who is ranked 231 in the world. But despite being down at match point at 4-5 on Ebden’s service in the second set, the Pole bounced back smartly into the match by first obtaining a break point and then reeling off seven games in row to take the second set 7-5. Ebden was in great form early on, but probably a muscle in his left calf troubled him midway through the match. The Australian called for an injury time-out after the second set but when the play resumed, he was far from being comfortable. The third and final set was a one-sided story that was over in a blink. With Ebden’s movements restricted, the powerful Janowicz took just 26 minutes to finish the set 6-0. In the inconsequential mixed doubles match afterwards, Radwanska and Janowicz beat Dellacquaand Ben Mitchell 8-6 and gave Poland a great start.