Day 5 preview: the champ versus the contender
In addition to Team Australia, Wednesday features a European flair with teams from Italy, Germany, and Serbia showcased writes Chris Skelton.
Day session, 10 am:  Italy v  Germany
Match 1: Andreas Seppi (ITA) v Tommy Haas (GER)
Just two notches apart in the rankings, these two men from opposite sides of the Alps aim to build upon 2012 campaigns that vastly exceeded expectations. All three of Seppi’s career titles have come in the past eighteen months, while last year featured victories over quality foes like John Isner, Fernando Verdasco, and Gael Monfils. Among other accomplishments, Haas won his first title since 2009 and did it the hard way by knocking off Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer in Halle. That tournament hosted his only two previous meetings with Seppi, which the players split. While that result might surprise, Haas seems the better player on non-clay surfaces and will seek to prevent Seppi from sucking him into the long baseline rallies where the Italian’s superior fitness might wear down the 34-year-old veteran.
Match 2: Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Tatjana Malek (GER)
Seeking to rebound from a slow start to her Hyundai Hopman Cup campaign, Francesca Schiavone must defend her serve more effectively than she did against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic. But Tatjana Malek, a replacement for the injured Andrea Petkovic, lacks the intimidating return game that would subject her to pressure. Currently outside the top 100, Malek never has climbed inside the top 50 and enters her Hyundai Hopman Cup debut as a heavy underdog. Expect a match of long rallies decided by consistency rather than shot-making.
Match 3: Italy v Germany mixed doubles
This battle of veterans features four players who have accumulated 57 years of professional experience. Enjoy the rare opportunity to see two exquisite one-handed backhands across the net from each other in the vintage strokes of Haas and Schiavone.
Night session, 5:45 pm:  Serbia v  Australia
Match 1: Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
Not unfamiliar foes, they have practiced together before and played an exhibition match at Kooyong before the 2010 Australian Open. Although Bernard won that time and took a set off Novak in a Wimbledon meeting, the world No.1 defeated him more comfortably at two Masters 1000 tournaments over the past nine months. Playing on home soil often lifts Tomic’s spirits and game, however, so he will hope to benefit from enthusiastic support in Perth as he did in recording three victories at last year’s Australian Open. But Djokovic went undefeated in singles when he last appeared here, so stopping the Serb looms as a daunting task for Tomic early in the process of rebuilding confidence from a disappointing finish to 2012. Nevertheless, nothing would start the new year better than a competitive effort against the world No.1.
Match 2: Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
For several years now Ana Ivanovic has basked in the affection of a country where many of her relatives live. Reviving her fortunes under new coach Nigel Sears, she relishes her visits to Australia and thrived at the Hopman Cup two years ago before injury prevented her from contesting the final with Djokovic. Even during her periods of struggle, Ivanovic usually has managed to take care of business against opponents well below her in the WTA food chain. The budding Ashleigh Barty fits that definition and thus faces a stiff challenge, but she should learn from the experience of testing her developing skills against a former No.1 and major champion.
Match 3: Serbia v Australia mixed doubles
Each of the Serbs individually is much superior to each of their Aussie counterparts, so the home team will hope to produce a performance greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a goal that is not implausible but will require Tomic to build a rapport with Barty as the week progresses, similar to what Andy Murray did here with another teenager in Laura Robson.
Chris Skelton is a freelance tennis journalist, you can read more of his writing at sharapovanovic.com.
Are you attending the Australia v Serbia tie tonight?
For patrons attending tonight’s match between Australia and Serbia, please note the following:
- There are still some tickets available for tonight – book through ticketek.com.au or on your mobile smart phone.
- Gates open at 4.45 (pending completion of the day session) – We advise patrons to plan ahead and arrive early to avoid delays.
- Arena doors open at 5.15 for a 5.45 start (player walk on).
- The Perth Arena does not allow patrons to bring their own food (excepting dietary requirements).
- Patrons can bring sealed bottles of water or their own empty drink bottles to fill at the Arena.
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