For the second time in Hopman Cup’s short history, France have won the champions honors after they powered their way past USA to win the mixed team event on Saturday. Both French players exhibited tenacity through their matches and reached the final by defeating Switzerland in their last round-robin match on Friday. While Kristina Mladenovic made the difference in France’s match against Switzerland after Richard Gasquet had lost to Roger Federer, it was the turn of Gasquet himself, whose victory against Jack Sock had put France in the driver’s seat in the final against USA. In both matches, the ties were decided in the Fast-4 mixed doubles.
France entered the final on Friday even after Richard Gasquet lost 1-6, 4-6 to the sheer tennis mastery of Swiss maestro Roger Federer in the first match. Until Switzerland ran into France for the crucial tie, Belinda Bencic had been all class. However, Kristina Mladenovic played the match of her life against Bencic and won the three-setter 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. That result left the tie to be decided in the Fast-4 doubles. Then Gasquet and Mladenovic combined superbly and defeated Federer/Bencic 4-2, 4-2 to earn France’s place in the final.
Roles were reversed for Mladenovic and Gasquet, when they took on USA in Saturday’s final. The French veteran played against the in-form Jack Sock, who looked like stealing the match from Gasquet. But the Frenchman held his nerve after he was down a match point against Sock in the third set tiebreak. Earlier Sock had bounced back after losing the first set and pushed Gasquet to the limits in the decider. In the third set, Jack Sock had broken Gasquet and just as he got ready to serve for the match at 6-5, Gasquet found some hidden reserve as he capitalized on Sock’s lapse of concentration and broke back at love to take the set to tiebreak. It was in the tiebreak that Sock held the match point against Gasquet. However, after Sock played an easy forehand into the net, Gasquet had his chance. He kept fighting and won the match at 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 after a grueling 2½ hours. Just when, it looked easy for France based on Kristina Mladenovic’s form in the tournament, the Frenchwoman lost her way against USA’s Coco Vandeweghe and allowed the American to take the match at 6-4, 7-5. Now the championship depended on the result of the mixed doubles.
Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic came back for the Fast-4 doubles and played very intelligently to eke out a 4-1, 4-3 win that gave their nation the championship for the second time. Earlier, France had won the Hopman Cup in 2014, when the pair of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alize Cornet had defeated Poland’s Grzegorz Panfil and Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. The one week of Hopman Cup was played in great entertaining spirits. Despite home nation Australia coming a cropper, the crowd kept coming back to the venue every day. Besides watching some high quality tennis, they also saw the great Roger Federer displaying his bongo drumming skills. Like in tennis, the Swiss maestro seemed to excel in a field, far disconnected with the game that he plays.