17 years ago, Australia won the Hopman Cup for the first time, when Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic emerged champions after defeating Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and Asa Carlsson. Since then, the home team never won the ITF event until Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova ended the title drought after winning the Saturday’s final against Ukraine at the Perth Arena. Playing for Australia Green, Kyrgios and Gavrilova won their singles matches and sealed the championship victory. On Friday, however, Great Britain were on the verge of a back-door entry into final after the Andy Murray led side finished a 3-0 German whitewash and Australia Green were down a set point in mixed doubles against France in their last tie later on. If Kyrgios/Gavrilova had lost that match, Britain would have made it to the final. But the two Australians combined well, nullified the charge of the French brigade and entered the final of 2016 Hopman Cup.
While Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios both were expected to win their matches on Friday and Saturday, the real effort came from the English and Australian women. In Great Britain’s 3-0 demolition of Germany, Heather Watson played a great game against former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and defeated her 6-3, 6-4 to set the tone of the tie, which Britain won 3-0. On Saturday, it was the turn of Australian Daria Gavrilova, who began with a victory over Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Gavrilova delighted the Australian viewers with her fighting spirit after she trailed 1-6 in the second set tiebreak. The Aussie woman never lost her focus as she reeled off seven points in a row to win at 6-4, 7-6. That victory lent the 1-0 lead for Australia before Kyrgios came out to play against Alexandr Dolgopolov. It was all over when Kyrgios ended Ukraine’s challenge with a powerful display that demolished Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-4. After that, there was no need to play the mixed doubles match.
However on Friday, Australia came close to elimination from the tournament, when they played against France. In an earlier tie, Great Britain had defeated Germany 3-0 and that result meant Australia had to beat France for reaching the final. They started off well with Nick Kyrgios powering past Frenchman Kenny De Schepper in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. In the women’s singles, however, Gavrilova couldn’t repeat her earlier performance against Sabine Lisicki and Heather Watson and lost to Caroline Garcia 4-6, 6-7. After Gavrilova’s defeat, Australia were driven to a must-win situation in the ensuing mixed doubles match to reach the final. The tie went to the edges of thrill with Australia and Ukraine sharing the first two sets. In the match tiebreak that followed, Australia were down a match point, when Gavrilova’s net-play brought them back into the match. With Kyrgios striking a winner, Australians went through with 6-4, 2-6, 11-9 victory over Kenny De Schepper/Caroline Garcia. If Australia had lost, Great Britain would have gone to the final to play against Ukraine.
Now with everything done and dusted, Nick Kyrgios has given a good boost to Australian tennis in the New Year. The Hopman Cup has remained in the country for the first time since 1999. But Kyrgios couldn’t have done it alone and any praise for Daria Gavrilova will fall short for the big effort and heart that she put in her game during the week.