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Serena eyes more history at Mastercard Hopman Cup  

31 December 2018, by Hopman Cup

There’s history to be created practically every time Serena Williams takes to the court – and the superstar’s fifth appearance at the Mastercard Hopman Cup is no exception.

Serena’s debut appearance at the world team event – alongside James Blake an astonishing 16 years ago in 2003 – delivered the USA with the second of its six Hopman Cup titles and she teamed with Mardy Fish to seize the 2008 trophy.

Also a runner-up to Poland in her 2015 appearance with John Isner, Serena is a key contributor to the USA’s six titles from an unparalleled 12 Hopman Cup finals appearances.

But if such milestones create pressure for Serena, it was far from the surface as she practised with Frances Tiafoe, her Team USA partner in this Hopman Cup outing.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion cast a relaxed figure as she first enjoyed some court-side reading time, and shared some laughs with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Serena followed her practice session with Tiafoe – who at age 20, is 17 years her junior – by signing autographs and posing for selfies with delighted observers.

While many fans are clearly in awe of the prolific champion, so too are Serena’s Mastercard Hopman Cup opponents.

Maria Sakkari, the first player that Serena will face in Monday’s session against Greece, groups Serena alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as one of her biggest idols.

“It’s going to be a very exciting match for me,” said Sakkari, who is yet to face Serena on tour.

“I’m really looking forward (to it). You know, she’s one of the greatest in our sport so it’s going to be very nice to play against her.”

Katie Boulter also embraces the opportunity to compete against childhood idols for the first time. Asked who she most admired as a young player, the Brit immediately pointed to the record-breaking stars at Mastercard Hopman Cup 2019.

“Honestly it was Serena and Federer,” said Boulter. “The fact that I get to play them here is going to be a huge privilege for me and something that I’m going to remember for life.”

It’s an experience that Belinda Bencic has already experienced, the 21-year-old upsetting Serena en route to the Toronto title in 2015 – their semifinal one of three matches she’s contested against the American.

“Of course, I’m looking forward to it, as always,” said Bencic, who will face Serena in the Switzerland’s highly anticipated clash with USA on Wednesday evening.

“Just to play her is already an amazing honour. Hopefully I can do my best and take a point.”

Tiafoe, making his debut at the Mastercard Hopman Cup this week, is almost certain to take inspiration from his superstar partner.

The young American will experience a fascinating clash of his own as he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas for the first time in his career at RAC Arena.

Both aged 20, each man is regularly touted for his potential to feature prominently in the next generation of major champions.