The Hopman Cup, the mixed-gender competition that was one of the victims of the ATP Cup, the newly-created team competition organized by the ATP and Tennis Australia, is set to make a return during the 2021 season.
The recently re-elected President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) David Haggerty has confirmed during a phone interview with Reuters that plans are being made for a return of the competition during the next season: “Our plan is to re-introduce it for 2021. We don’t have plans for the Hopman Cup in 2020 but we are going out to the market for expressions of interest and we have already had quite a few enquiries.”
Of course, the original slot during the first week of January is no longer available, since it is now occupied by the ATP Cup, which will see its first edition take place between 3rd and 12th January 2020 in three Australian cities including Perth, Western Australia, that has hosted the competition since the beginning in 1989. That was really an ideal time of the year for such an event, with most players going to Australia after the winter training block and looking to play a few matches before the first Slam of the year a couple of weeks later in Melbourne.
“It could really be anywhere in the world and any time in the calendar,” confirmed Haggerty, who however failed to mention that it will be far from easy to find a more suitable slot in the ATP and WTA calendars to make the competition palatable for the big names that have played at the RAC Arena in Perth during the past editions. For example, last January Switzerland played the United States during a Round Robin tie, that traditionally consisted of one men’s singles, one women’s singles and a final mixed doubles; on that occasion the Hopman Cup showcased arguably the two most successful players of all times, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, in a mixed doubles match that represented an unparalleled promotional opportunity for tennis.
Top players nowadays are extremely careful with their scheduling and the presence of these marquee names can only be assured if the date of the competition does not interfere with their plans to perform at their best at Grand Slam events.
“The reason to do the expressions of interest is really to get the feedback from the nations and cities that have an interest and see what their proposal would be,” Haggerty added, “and I can confirm we have interest from every continent.”
It is reassuring to hear the ITF President so engaged in bringing back this very popular competition, but the position in the calendar is really crucial to the success and the livelihood of these events, and the ITF has very little clout to shuffle events around and make room for this “prodigal son”. Let’s not forget that the new multi-million dollar Davis Cup Finals, scheduled to take place in Madrid next month for the first time in its highly controversial new formula, is going to see its opening match start just a few hours after the end of the Nitto ATP Finals in London, in a scheduling jam that is likely to cost the participation of some of the big names to the kermesse at the Caja Magica. But the ITF only had that week available, all negotiations with the ATP were unfruitful and it was forced to hold its flagship event right at the end of the season when most players are exhausted and longing for a well-deserved break at the Maldives before the season starts again in Australia.
If the ITF couldn’t get a more suitable date in the calendar for its main event, what are the chances they will be able to get a decent slot for the Hopman Cup, a competition with far less tradition and that will require negotiations not only with the ATP but also with the WTA?