Find out what it’s like to go to the Hopman Cup tournament, held at Perth Arena in Perth at the start of the Aussie tennis season.
It’s a fact that I love the Hopman Cup. I grew up watching it on TV in the lead up the Australian Open and over the years I found that the more I watched, the more I wanted to watch. I went in 2012 in the lead up to my “fan slam” and loved being able to go back again this year.
Read on for my thoughts about the fan experience at the tournament and what it’s like to visit Perth.
Now in it’s 27th year, the event was named after Australian tennis legend Harry Hopman. Harry’s wife Lucy attended the event for the first 26 years but this year, now 94, wasn’t able to make the trip from the US, although she did send a welcome message via video.
The format of mixed teams playing for their country is unique, and it’s one of the things that makes the tournament special.
For me, I love being able to watch a small group of players play against each other, comparing their form from match to match, depending who they are playing, and thinking about how well they will play at the Australian Open. Plus the mixed doubles can be fun and relaxed, which gives the players a chance to show their personalities.
Unlike the other Australian Open lead up tournaments which are held the same week as the Hopman Cup, players are guaranteed at least three singles matches, which is a big plus if there is a possibility you could lose in an early round at the other tourneys. Plus they get to play in hot conditions on Australian hard courts, and the Hopman Cup has a relaxed atmosphere. These factors help attract high calibre players year after year. Although inevitably some players withdraw close to the tournament. This year those players were Australian Nick Kyrgios, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Czech Radek Stepanek and Jack Sock from the USA. Late withdrawals can be replaced by a lower ranked player, who is given a chance to shine that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. This year this was the case with Adam Pavlasek from the Czech Republic, ranked in the 200s, who defeated Top 20 player Fabio Fognini from Italy.
The 2015 teams were:
- Poland: Jerzy Janowicz and Aga Radwanska
- USA: John Isner and Serena Williams
- France: Benoit Paire and Alize Cornet
- Australia: Marinko Matosevic and Casey Dellacqua
- Italy: Fabio Fognini and Flavia Pennetta
- Czech Republic: Adam Pavlasek and Lucie Safarova
- Great Britain: Andy Murray and Heather Watson
- Canada: Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard
After attending the Hopman Cup in 2012 when it was held in Burswood I was looking forward to experiencing the new Perth Arena. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s literally the coolest tennis venue in Australia (having said that, I haven’t yet experienced the new Margaret Court Arena). Even with the roof open, the seat based air conditioning provides a surprisingly comfortable experience for spectators.
The arena holds 12,500 people in tennis mode, making it easy for fans to access tickets. Although there wasn’t a sell out crowd at any of the sessions this year, attendance rose by 10% on 2014, up a total of 95,000.
Perth Arena is centrally located and easy to get to via train or free CAT bus (see below).
Personally I think every tennis match should include an announcement reminding spectators to turn their mobile phones to silent and not to move to or from their seats unless it’s a change of ends, similar to what they did in Singapore during the WTA Finals. Having said that, the spectator etiquette in Perth was great. Sure, there are people who walk as slow as humanly possible to their seats during a change of ends, and from time to time there was annoyingly loud chit chat, but I only heard one or two phones ring the whole week and generally people were there to watch tennis rather than chat to their friends while the ball was in play.
I also heard the ushers explaining to people how the change of ends works, and that if they left their seat at the start of a set it would be three games, rather than two, before they could return. In my dedicated tennis fan opinion things like that really help to create a better experience for everyone.
At the start of each session the spectators were given free flags to support the countries who were playing. The flag waving added to the atmosphere, and was also a good way to tell how much support each country had. Although I think every session I lost my flag down the back of the seat in front of me before the first match had ended!
The Practice Court
Like a lot of tennis fans I love seeing players practice, and it’s one of few opportunities to take photos from a short distance away.
There is one practice court next to the arena which can be accessed without a ticket. The player practice schedule was put on the big screen once or twice a day, but if you missed that there was no other way (that I found anyway) of knowing who was practicing when. To improve the fan experience the schedule could be written up near the court, and tweeted by the tournament Twitter account.
The Hopman Cup prizes are another one of the things that make the tournament special. Along with prize money (which totalled $1million in 2012 but I haven’t been able to find out whether it has increased since then), the players each receive a beautiful diamond encrusted tennis racquet trophy and a smaller version of the trophy included in a necklace or lapel pin.
Perth is a beautiful city. When not at the tennis, I suggest getting out the city area to visit the suburbs, where you’ll find great little cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries and shops.
Public transport is really easy to use, particularly because you don’t have to pay money for a piece of plastic before being able to buy a ticket (unlike the Myki system in Melbourne). The ferry to South Perth was only $2 each way, a ticket for two adults (plus a lot of kids if you have them) for a whole day was less than $12 and the Central Area Transit (CAT) buses in the city are free. Gotta be happy with that!
We spent time in South Perth, Freemantle and Cottesloe. Notable places I recommend visiting if you like to eat and drink where is atmosphere, great food and great service were Gusto in South Perth and The Standard in Northbridge and Chik and Kent in the city (which was one of few places still serving food after the Final finished on Saturday night).
Rottnest Island and the Swan Valley winery region are also an easy day trip from Perth.
You’ll also get amazing seafood at the wharf in Freemantle and the Cottesloe Beach Hotel in Cottesloe is a great place to enjoy a drink while watching the sunset.
Kings’ Park is a beautiful park right next to the city which you can get to easily on the free CAT buses, local buses or a short cab fare. It has a great view of the city, by day and by night, and, quite frankly, some of the poshest free BBQs I’ve seen in Australia.
If you get the chance to go the Hopman Cup go for it! It’s a great way to start the Aussie tennis season.
I loved being able to mix tennis with fabulous sights, great places to eat and drink, and catching up with friends and family.
View more photos from the Hopman Cup:
- The Hopman Cup 2015 Final Trophy Ceremony
- Hopman Cup 2015 Final Mixed Doubles
- Hopman Cup 2015 Final Men’s Singles: Isner v Janowicz
- Hopman Cup 2015 Final Women’s Singles: Radwanska v Williams
- Hopman Cup 2015: Australia v Great Britain: Matosevic, Dellacqua, Murray and Watson
- Hopman Cup 2015: Serena Williams Practice Pics
- Hopman Cup 2015: Genie Bouchard Practice Pics
- Hopman Cup 2015: France v Australia: Paire, Cornet, Matosevic, Dellacqua
- Hopman Cup 2015: Canada v USA: Pospisil, Bouchard, Isner, Williams
- Hopman Cup 2015: Czech Republic v Italy: Pavlasek, Safarova, Fognini, Pennetta
And now, onward to the Australian Open!
Until next time
Grand Slam Gal