Andy Murray, as he did last year, is Australia bound early in preparation for the Australian Open. Once again Murray is foregoing ranking points in preference to acclimatisation and a guarantee of 6 matches 3 singles and 3 doubles.
The Hopman Cup which starts on the 1st January in Perth proved a good warm up for the Australian Open last year when Andy’s superb volleying which was evident in Perth re-emerged in his Quarter Final defeat of Nadal. The Hopman Cup is an eight team event split into 2 groups, a round robin format is used to decide the group winners. Each tie is made up of a Women’s singles, Men’s singles and then the two players join forces to play mixed doubles.
Murray once again partners teenager Laura Robson to try to lift the Hopman Cup for the first time for Team GB at the fifth attempt. After last years Hopman Cup, Andy and Laura both made there respective finals in Melbourne. And Laura, as a late reserve into the Australian wild card women’s doubles team, joined teenager Sally Peers and reached the quarter finals.
Team GB are seeded 2 and are drawn in group B along with the number 4 seeds Italy (Starace & Schiavone), France (Mahut & Mladenovic) and US (Isner & Mattek-Sands). Team GB were originally seeded 3 with the US 2 but the withdrawal of twice Hopman Cup winner Serena Williams saw the US move to an un-seeded position. And the promotion of Italy to the 4th Seeds and the withdrawal of Gael Monfils from the French team makes the group look easier than originally drawn.
There are some big guns in group A with Djorkovic playing for Serbia and Henin representing Belgium, they are joined by host nation Australia and Kazakhstan. With John Isner playing for the US and Nicolas Mahut playing for France, the two marathon men from Wimbledon once again cross swords.
Murray will need to account for Starace (WR47), Mahut (WR132) and Isner (WR19) in his singles encounters. Murray holds a 4-0 advantage over his 3 opponents and has lost only one set from the eleven played that was against Starace at Roland Garros in 2009.
Unlike last year, where Laura’s 3 group opponents were all ranked upwards of 54 this year, she will be applying her trade against Schiavone (WR7), Mladenovic (WR300) and Mattek-Sands (WR58). Schiavone is the current French open champion, Mladenovic won the French open junior title in 2009 and was a beaten finalist in the singles and doubles finals at junior Wimbledon, the same year and like Laura got to the number one position in the junior rankings. Mattek-Sands is WR17 in the doubles.
Laura has never met any of her opponents in singles although did face Mattek-Sands and Liezel-Huber who were the number one seeds at Birmingham in June, Laura played alongside Heather Watson with the Brits going down 4-6 4-6.
If Andy like last year can hit the ground running when he was superb in the Round Robin stages when conceding just ten games in his 3 group matches and in the doubles he brought a pocket full of E’s to the court Energy, Effort, Efficiency and Enthusiasm there’s no reason why team GB can’t equal or better last years performance.
Team GB’s matches are against Italy at 1.30am on the 3rd, France at 9am on the 5th and US at approx 6.30am on the 7th and should they make it the final is at 7am on the 8th. (GMT)
The Hopman Cup website will give live scores, reports, schedules and history information at www.hopmancup.com
For those who cannot get live pictures last year Perth Radio gave excellent live commentary of all matches www.perthnow.com.au