If the Hopman Cup is cut, it could be the end of world-class women’s tennis in Perth. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
It has been a long time since the Australian summer of tennis has been surrounded by so much uncertainty.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) dropped a grenade last week when it announced Australia would host the revamped men’s World Team Cup in January 2020.
The announcement casts a cloud over the future of the Hopman Cup in Perth, as having two tournaments running at the same time come 2020 is not a sustainable model.
And this could be a major blow for world-class women’s tennis in the state.
It is a period on the tennis calendar already occupied by the long-standing traditional lead-up events to the Australian Open.
Details remain vague, but this is what we know.
The event will feature 24 teams competing for more than $20 million in prize money as well as ATP rankings points.
That is a substantial increase to the current amount on offer for the men’s draw at the Brisbane and Sydney competitions, which have prize money of around $470,000 available for the champion.
The prize money will be some of the largest on offer outside of a Grand Slam.
Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and possibly Adelaide will host the various stages of the tournament.
Roger Federer celebrates winning the men’s singles match against Jack Sock at the Hopman Cup in 2018. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
There are more questions than answers as Tennis Australia plays catch-up and begins meetings with stakeholders.
Where does it leave the female players ahead of the first grand slam of the year?
Women have equal billing at the Brisbane and Sydney Internationals and the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) event in Hobart could see an increase in prominence and there has been some talk Brisbane could become a WTA tournament.
But the Queensland Government has a contract until 2021 for a combined men’s and women’s event and has stated it is committed to meeting that.
The West Australian Government has secured the Hopman Cup until 2022.
Daria Gavrilova celebrates her win for Australia in a match at the Hopman Cup. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
This year will be the event’s 31st in a row.
But if the Hopman Cup were to be axed, it is likely WA audiences will lose the chance to see world-class female players compete on a local stage.
Tourism WA will meet Tennis Australia next week to discuss its options, but there have been no decision yet to shift funding to the new tournament.
“The Government, through Tourism WA, is keen to ensure that working with Tennis Australia, and other partners, it retains WA’s position as a place for world-class tennis, which attracts international players and showcases Perth and our State to a worldwide audience,” a WA Government spokesperson said in a statement.
“The state has a close working relationship with Tennis Australia which we are confident will continue long into the future.”
The main hurdle for Western Australia is that the Hopman Cup is run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which also operates the Grand Slam tournaments and the Davis Cup.
The WA Government would have to cut the ITF loose and align with the ATP. With superior prizemoney and rankings points on offer, the players are likely to do the same.
It is a risky proposition doing away with successful, popular tournaments like the Hopman Cup and Brisbane International. Until we know further detail, it seems that those who are at most risk from the shake-up are the women and fans of the women’s game.