Hopman Cup Final 2016 Preview
A week of cuddling koalas, hitting the surf at Perth’s renowned beaches and world class tennis from the Perth Arena, has culminated in today’s shootout between Ukraine and Australia Green; The crescendo of Hopman Cup XXVIII.
Team Ukraine comprised of Elina Svitolina and Alexandr Dolgopolov will compete for the Hopman Cup title against Aussie young guns Daria Gavrilova and Nick Kyrgios.
Both teams went into the tournament as the underdogs in their respective groups. In Ukraine’s group (A), they had to contend with the USA which had forecasted to include the top women’s player in the world, Serena Williams as well as the Czech Republic pairing of world number 9 Lucie Safarova, replaced due to injury by 11th ranked Karolina Pliskova and Jiri Vesely.
In group B, Australian Green had to compete with Andy Murray’s Great Britain and came in third to the expected French duo of Gael Monfils, who withdrew only days out from the tournament and Caroline Garcia (one of the few players in Hopman Cup history to win all of her single’s matches and never win a single tie).
These injuries to Serena Williams, Gael Monfils and even Lucie Safarova seemingly opened the door for teams such as Ukraine and Australia Green to move up the pecking order in their groups and really push to make the final.
Today’s Hopman Cup Final is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated ties in Hopman Cup history. Two evenly matched teams, who have gone through the week undefeated looking to put their countries name on the trophy.
Australia Green have had an incredible week of Hopman Cup tennis. Nick Kyrgios started by beating future star Alexander Zverev from Germany and then came out swinging against Andy Murray in one of the biggest wins of his career, beating the Scot 6-4 7-6(5). He followed this up by having a convincing win over Frenchman Kenny de Schepper. Daria Gavrilova has played some incredible tennis this week. She beat German ace Sabine Lisicki in straight sets and then played in one of the best women’s singles matches in Hopman Cup history against Heather Watson eventually going down 6-7(2) 6-2 7-5. Last night she faced a determined Caroline Garcia who beat her 6-4 7-6 (7).
Australia hasn’t won the Hopman Cup since the 1999 edition when Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic recorded Australia’s first ever win. It will be down to the two Aussie young guns to get the Aussie’s second win at the mixed-teams event.
While all the hype has been surrounding the fledgling Aussie pairing, team Ukraine come into the final as the quiet achievers. Ukraine are vying for their first final win at the Hopman Cup. The last time Ukraine made an appearance at the Hopman Cup was in 1995 when brother-sister duo Andriy Medvedev and Natalia Medvedeva reached the final, but were beaten by Germans Boris Becker and Anke Huber.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Elina Svitolina haven’t lost a singles match between them. Dolgopolov has recorded some impressive straight set wins this week, over American Jack Sock and Czech Jiri Vesely, whilst he needed 3 sets to overcome Aussie battler Lleyton Hewitt in his final match. Svitolina has been near flawless in her outings this week. She dispatched Karolina Pliskova and was successful against Aussie veteran Jarmila Wolfe and young American Vicky Duval.
Hopman Cup Finals always throw up a few surprises. In recent years we have seen huge upsets. Last year Agnieszka Radwanska stunned now 21 time grand slam champion Serena Williams, helping Poland to overcome the USA, whilst in 2013 the seemingly unbeatable couple of Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic were upset by Spaniard’s Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues following Anabel’s upset of Ivanovic in the singles and an emphatic mixed doubles result in Spain’s favour.
Elina Svitolina v Daria Gavrilova
Today’s match ups will prove to be intriguing affairs. The women’s singles between Elina Svitolina and Daria Gavrilova could prove to be a decisive match-up in the context of today’s final. The pair have had one previous encounter. Svitolina managed to beat Dasha in February of last year 6-4 5-7 6-4 on the Doha hardcourt. The pair play very similar games.
Svitolina plays a very defensive style of tennis. She is a backcourt battler who plays a lot of slice forehands and backhands and will do anything she can to stay in the point. She has a very useful drop shot and is a consistent server of the ball.
Gavrilova, the new Aussie fan favourite plays a very similar game to Svitolina. Dasha can really rip the forehand or backhand when she wants to and can mix up the play with a unique lob shot to buy her a bit of time. She is a very emotional player and has played an exciting brand of tennis this week. This match could be going the distance.
Alexandr Dolgopolov v Nick Kyrgios
It is the first time Alexandr Dolgopolov and Nick Kyrgios have faced off against each other. The 27 year old Ukraine possesses an unorthodox tennis style. The number one ranked Ukrainian plays with a lot of spin and has the capability to mix up the serve to send down 200km/h bullets followed by a vicious kick serve. Dolgopolov doesn’t like playing at the net. His natural habitat is back on the baseline and has looked really uncomfortable coming forward in the court this week.
In contrast to Dolgopolov’s spin-heavy game, Kyrgios plays with a lot of power and flare. His court coverage is second to none on the ATP tour and he will race through his service games in next to no time. He loves attacking and will look to come to the net a lot whilst also playing a host of flashy shots from the back of the court. The exciting element of Nick’s game is that you never know what you’re going to get and his on court flare could prove decisive against Dolgopolov.
Last night we saw the 21 year old go off his game in the mixed double in the second set. He looked out of sorts for a significant period of time and if he has a lapse in concentration like we’ve seen before, he could easily be undone by the steely Ukraine. For Kyrgios it is his chance to redeem himself for Australia following the events which lead to him being dumped for Australia’s Davis Cup semi-final against Great Britain.
Svitolina/Dolgopolov v Gavrilova/Kyrgios – Mixed Doubles
The likely scenario for this evening’s tie, will be a live mixed doubles rubber. The Aussies have played out some incredible mixed doubles matches this week. They ran out victorious over Germany in their opening double’s rubber and continued their winning form against Great Britain and France. In each three matches, they have required a match tie-break to come away with the win. They beat Germany 10-7 in a tight contest and they recorded 11-9 wins against both Great Britain and France. The young combination look like they’re a fluent doubles pairing and amongst intuitive hand signals, fist bumps and sound on court communication, they’re bouncing around the court like one of Santa’s reindeers; Dasha and Dancer some are dubbing the vibrant pairing.
Ukraine on the other hand have looked like fish out of water on the doubles court this week. They haven’t won a doubles match all week and the pair don’t look like they’re gelling on court. They are both poor net players and don’t have much of a double’s brain. They are heavily reliant on getting the job done in the singles, but if their is a slip up from Svitolina or Dolgopolov, they are going to have to turn their mixed doubles fortunes around if they are to claim the Hopman Cup title.
The crowd factor is going to be a big factor in today’s tie. It is the second time in as many days that Ukraine will play against an Australian team after facing Australia Gold’s Jarmila Wolfe and Lleyton Hewitt on Thursday. Hopefully they have become accustomed to the, at times raucous, Perth Arena crowd which was instrumental in getting Australia Green over the line in their three mixed doubles clashes.
This evening’s final will be one for the ages. A great spectacle for the fans to see the future of Aussie tennis competing for Hopman Cup glory.