Top-ranked men’s player Novak Djokovic and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams will represent their countries at the Hopman Cup team tennis tournament, although they won’t play each other unless Serbia and the United States advance to the final.
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Playing for the first time on blue hardcourts at the new Perth Arena, the eight-country event begins Saturday when Spain plays South Africa and Germany takes on Australia.
Williams and her partner John Isner will see their first action Sunday when the U.S. plays South Africa, and Spain also plays France on the same day. Serbia, represented by Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, plays Italy in the only match Monday.
Each match consists of women’s and men’s singles followed by mixed doubles.
Top-seeded Serbia, Australia, Italy and Germany will play in Group A while the No. 2 U.S., South Africa, Spain and France make up Group B, with the winners of each group to play in the final on Jan. 5.
The tournament is one of six lead-up tournaments in Australia and New Zealand ahead of the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 14 in Melbourne.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will represent France with Mathilde Johansson, is working with a new coach, Australian Roger Rasheed, in an attempt to improve his play against the top-four players.
Tsonga, who lost the Australian Open final in 2008 to Djokovic, has struggled against the top four this year. He has lost all five matches with Djokovic, both against Andy Murray and his one and only match against Rafael Nadal, while his lone match against Roger Federer was a walkover in Tsonga’s favor.
”We have quite the same mentality,” Tsonga said of Rasheed. ”He’s a hard worker and, for sure, he will give me the spirit.”
Group A (equals)
Australia: Bernard Tomic, Ashleigh Barty.
Germany: Tommy Haas, Andrea Petkovic.
Italy: Andreas Seppi, Francesca Schiavone.
Serbia: Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic.
Group B (equals)
France: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mathilde Johansson.
South Africa: Kevin Anderson, Chanelle Scheepers.
Spain: Fernando Verdasco, Anabel Medina Garrigues.