I’m back from three fantastic weeks in Australia and am slowly getting back to normality. The non-tennis highlight of the trip was definitely visiting the Whitsunday Islands, seeing the spectacular Whitehaven Beach and swimming around the Great Barrier Reef. We visited three new tennis tournaments and I achieved my Career Slam at the Australian Open! Before getting back to blogging along with the WTA tour (please feel free to use Saturday’s post HERE to discuss St. Petersburg in the comments section), I want to share about my tennis experiences in Australia. I’m doing this for myself while my memory is intact to have a recollection of our trip and I hope that at the same time, they will be an enjoyable and informative to read. Let’s start with the Hopman Cup and Perth…
One of the difficulties with buying tennis tickets in advance is that you never know what players you are going to watch. One of the big advantages of the Hopman Cup is that they reveal the full schedule of when each team is playing before most of the tickets are released. We wanted to see Switzerland (Bencic and Federer) and Germany (Kerber and Zverev) so picked two matches involving these teams.
We opted for the “1 Day and 1 Night Package” which allows you access for 1 day session and 1 night session excluding the final. The morning sessions are all general admission so you do not get an allocated seat. For the evening sessions, there are three brackets of seating – Platinum, Gold and Silver. We went for the cheapest which for two adults (including all the stupid fees) came to a total of $130 Australian Dollars (roughly £75). Therefore under £40 for a day of tennis so very reasonable in my opinion.
Getting to the venue
The Hopman Cup is played at the Perth Arena, which opened back in 2012. The stadium is pretty close to the centre. As we were staying in central Perth we walked for both our sessions which took about 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re coming from further afield, you’ll have no problem getting to the arena. The nearest train station (Perth station) is just a 10 minute walk away and the Yellow Cat Bus Route runs along Wellington Street (where the Perth Arena is located) and is within the free transit zone. The transport in Perth blew my mind!
Entering the venue
We had no problems getting into the venue, especially for the morning session when crowds were considerably less. There are some restrictions on what to take so checking the “General Information” page on the Hopman Cup website is recommended. They have restrictions food and drink – we took a sealed bottle of water each time and a small amount of food which was fine. For all the Australian tournaments the limit on camera lenses is 200mm and they did check every time so be careful if you try taking in bigger lenses!
Of all the sporting venues we visited, the Perth Arena was without doubt my favourite – absolutely stunning! The seats inside the stadium are very comfortable and are essentially the same as those on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. There is ample leg room and a drinks holder. I also noted how the temperature was perfect. Our morning session was on a pretty hot day but the aircon in the stadium is great.
For Germany vs. Canada we sat behind the players (Section 208) and had a great view. For Switzerland vs. USA we were in the cheap seats (Section 320, row M – 9/21 in the upper tier) but the view was still reasonable. It was hard to get decent pictures of the players though!
The practice court
It took us a while to locate the practice court at the Perth Arena which is on the western side of the stadium. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it on Google Maps! The tournament did a good job at advertising practice times for the players (Note – they did sometimes change) and we went one evening to watch Belinda finish her practice. It wasn’t too busy at all so I would definitely recommend trying if you are staying nearby.
Food and drink
There are numerous food and drink outlets dotted within the venue and we always tried to time it so as not to go at the ends of sets or matches when queues were longer. We bought lunch on our first day – pulled beef burger with a generous portion of beer battered and aioli chips for $19 (roughly £11). A bit pricey but to be expected. The chips were lovely, a running theme I found in Australia!
Wednesday Morning Tie (Germany vs. Canada)
While being very jetlagged and generally a wreck (😂), I was super excited to start our trip with a morning at the Hopman Cup! We arrived early and had a wander around the arena before doors opened at 9:30am. We picked seats behind the court with the TV view and opted to stay out of the sun. They always close the roof before play starts and then open it during the national anthems. Considering it was a morning session, most of the lower tier was packed.
Angelique Kerber d. Eugenie Bouchard, 6-1 6-3
I’d missed Kerber’s first match at the Hopman Cup as we were in the air so I was slightly taken aback by how impressive she was – aggressive hitting, intent going down-the-line and nuggets of variety. It was nice to see Kerber mix up the play with the occasional drop shot. I thought this was a good sign as it had been a tactic she used effectively during her slam winning runs in 2016.
Bouchard had a few openings in both sets but didn’t take her opportunities. The Canadian player was unable to capitalise on a bright start with an early break point in Kerber’s first service game and then missed a *0-40 opening on Kerber’s serve at 3-3 in the second set. Kerber would drop just one more point after holding to 4-3 en route to a convincing straight sets win in less than an hour. Bouchard served well but otherwise was mostly erratic from the middle of the first set on with a bundle of errors long.
Alexander Zverev d. Vasek Pospisil, 6-4 6-2
Zverev improved significantly from the first set to the second. I suppose the most impressive aspect of his performance was that he kept things pretty steady, both gamewise and emotionally. I thought Pospisil had a shocker with so many basic errors in both sets. Pospisil launched into one yelp of frustration in the first set and then flung his racquet while heading to his chair in the second set. A mostly uneventful match.
Kerber and Zverev d. Bouchard and Pospisil, 4-3(2) 4-3(2)
It was nice to see all four players relax, let their guards down and for their personalities to come out on the court for the mixed doubles. I particularly loved the Angie-Sascha pairing and they seemed to get on really well – I was happy with my pictures of them! Zverev interacted really well with the crowd and shouted a few retorts. He went all in on serve against Bouchard who barely got a return back into play.
The biggest laughs came in the second set when Pospisil and Bouchard kept having lengthy discussions, often with Bouchard in giggles, and Bouchard taking up the I-formation on serve. Zverev shouted across “what are you doing!” and the German team retaliated later with their own I-formation!
Team Germany completed the clean sweep, 3-0 and would eventually qualify top of Group A for the final.
Thursday Evening Tie (Switzerland vs. USA)
We only realised during the first match that they were giving out flags so we made sure to get them (Switzerland all the way!) and now they are going straight in my memories box. I am really sentimental and keep everything – it was the running joke during the trip because my brother thinks i’m hilarious. We were really excited for the evening session and this winner-takes-all clash. The atmosphere was brilliant and at the time, it was the biggest ever attendance at the Hopman Cup. This was unsurprisingly topped by the final!
Roger Federer d. Jack Sock, 7-6(5) 7-5
While the men’s singles had an exhibition feel to it, the quality of tennis was very high with both serving extremely well and swatting away break point opportunities. Sock really endeared himself to the crowd and was a good sport (i’m still not a fan though 😂). After losing the opener in a first set tiebreak, I expected Sock to collapse. He was surprisingly very competitive in the second set. It seems this was his best moment from down under where things promptly went downhill after the Hopman Cup.
The best point of the match was the only break point conversion at 5-5 in the second set where Federer was imperious in defence (see HERE). Sock managed to get a code violation in the second set for repeatedly launching the ball into the upper tier (rather impressively, he managed to hit it out of the stadium in the mixed doubles). My favourite moment was when Federer urged Sock to challenge a call, prompting the umpire to announce “Switzerland are challenging the call on behalf of the USA”.
Belinda Bencic d. CoCo Vandeweghe, 7-6(6) 6-4
The women’s singles had a much more serious vibe to it compared to the men’s. I thought Bencic was superb, particularly with the added pressure of trying to confirm Switzerland’s place into the final having narrowly missed out on a place last year. The Swiss player handled Vandeweghe’s power and was particularly impressive off her forehand wing. She was both aggressive and precise, managing to stave off a Vandeweghe first set comeback to edge the opener on the tiebreak. Vandeweghe became increasingly frustrated in the second set and was particularly poor on return. Bencic, who had Federer cheering courtside for the end of the match, was clutch down break points and a solid frontrunner in the second set, serving out the match to 30.
Bencic and Federer d. Vandeweghe and Sock, 4-3 4-2
Since Switzerland had won the first two ties, the mixed doubles was essentially a dead rubber and therefore, turned into an exhibition. Immediately this was apparent from when the American pair came out trying to get the crowd going. Federer and Sock preceded to bounce the ball into the ground and over the net to each other during the warm-up 😂.
There were many funny moments during the match – Bencic and Vandeweghe both sat down when Federer and Sock decided to rally with each other and then started trading trick shots, Sock and Vandeweghe sang their hearts out to “Sweet Caroline” on a changeover and Sock did the customary exhibition move to swap places with the ballgirl. There were constant shouts for Pat Cash to join in the action at the end but he strongly resisted.
Switzerland completed the clean sweep, 3-0 to advance to the final where they would go onto to win the Hopman Cup! It was nice that we got to see both finalists. I’m sure the organisers will be doing all they can to get Federer and Bencic back again next year.
All in all, it was a great evening that I look back on fondly! Quality tennis and plenty of laughs.
Hopman Cup Photos
For more photos from the Hopman Cup, check out the links below from the MTB Facebook page.
Final thoughts on Hopman Cup and Perth
I’ve got a real soft spot for the Hopman Cup and it’s clear the players enjoy it too. It has also proven to be a successful warm-up event with Federer, Kerber and Mertens all making at least the semi-finals of the Australian Open. There have been criticisms over the year of the Hopman Cup including the recent change to the FAST4 format for the mixed doubles. I actually don’t mind it. Take the Switzerland vs. USA match which had two lengthy straight setters. The session started at 5:30pm and didn’t finish until about 10:30pm The mixed doubles was great but I think anything longer would have been too much.
I couldn’t recommend the Hopman Cup more – prices are pretty reasonable, great atmosphere, great line-up, something a bit different and good for fans of both women’s and men’s tennis. Also a shout out for Perth – my kind of place! It was clean and green, and not overly busy while we were there so very relaxing for a city break. My top tips from our brief stay in Perth are as follows:
- Take a ferry over to Rottnest Island. I won’t deny that it’s pricey (return ticket + entry to the island was roughly £32) but the scenery/geography was stunning and it was a great day out. We even managed to get selfies with the quokkas!
- Take a free bus up to Kings Park and the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are just beautiful to walk around and there is a great view over the city from the State War Memorial.
- Just explore the city! My favourite thing to do when visiting a new place is just to walk around to get a feel for the place. I loved discovering all the parks. My favourite was Langley Park near the WACA cricket ground. It was immaculately kept and the colour was stunning. I didn’t have to edit my photos at all 😍.