Hopman Cup: Fish, Mattek-Sands the U.S. pair
John Isner and Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Belgium's team of Justine Henin and Ruben Bemelmans to win the 2011 Hopman Cup for the U.S. (Stephen Wake/AP)
The ITF's Official Mixed Team Championship, Hopman Cup, announced its international field for the Dec. 31-Jan. 7 tournament on Tuesday. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Mardy Fish will represent the United States.
The tournament has been able to secure top-flight pairings over the last few years, with Dinara Safina and Marat Safin competing in 2009, Andy Murray and Laura Robson in 2010, and the Brits and Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic in 2011. While this year's competition lacks the marquee pairings of years past, it still boasts a world No. 1 in Caroline Wozniacki, two recent Grand Slam winners in Petra Kvitova and Li Na, and 10 top-30 players.
Here's the lineup for the exhibition, which takes place in Perth in Western Australia:
Czech Republic - Petra Kvitova (4) & Tomas Berdych (7)
USA - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (54) & Mardy Fish (9)
Denmark - Caroline Wozniacki (1) & Frederik Nielsen (198)
Bulgaria - Tsvetana Pironkova (49) & Grigor Dimitrov (72)
Australia - Jarmila Gajdosova (30) & Lleyton Hewitt (194)
China - Li Na (7) & Wu Di (423)
France - Marion Bartoli (11) & Richard Gasquet (17)
Spain - Anabel Medina Garrigues (28) & Fernando Verdasco (24)
The Americans are the only team to boast two past Hopman Cup champions, as Mattek-Sands won earlier this year with John Isner and Fish won in 2008 with Serena Williams. The two now have a chance to join Serena and James Blake as two-time winners.
The Americans' path will be tricky. The top-seeded Czechs will be the team to beat, while Wozniacki's Danish team and the talented and up-and-coming Bulgarians round out the group. The key to Hopman Cup has always been the mixed-doubles rubber, which suits the American team. While Mattek-Sands may be the lowest-ranked woman in the tournament, she's a talented doubles player who can more than hold her own.
"Mardy Fish is in career-best form and in the doubles they will be extremely hard to beat," tournament director Paul McNamee said. "They loom as a major threat once again."
Interestingly, McNamee revealed that Djokovic wanted to return but opted not to after Ivanovic decided to skip the exhibition in order to play Tour-level events to help her ranking. “The thing that made the difference was Ana Ivanovic having the ranking struggles that she was going through and deciding to change her preparation," McNamee said. "I think the fact Ana wasn’t coming over here was really the thing that tipped Novak the other way unfortunately.”