With only a few seats remaining at the 15,000 seat Perth Arena for tonight’s blockbuster between Australia and top seeds Serbia, it’s not just the fans who are excited – the players are too.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic and former No.1 Ana Ivanovic have shown so far that they are the deserving top seeds. Ivanovic powered past fellow French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and looks to have re-discovered the form that took her to the top of the world rankings in 2008.
“I’m playing the way I used to play before – setting up the points on my forehand and [I’m] working on my serve again. These are the things that I worked on in the off-season, so I’m really happy that they’re paying off,” said Ivanovic.
“I always was an aggressive player and I try to dominate and step in and take risks sometimes. It’s not always going to go your way but that’s the way I have to play.”
Ivanovic says she has her sights set on the top 10 and another Grand Slam. Her opponent tonight, 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty, is looking to crack the top 100 and chalk up her first win at a major.
Called into action after Casey Dellacqua withdrew before the event began with a foot injury, Barty was surprised by the call-up, but didn’t take long to focus on the task at hand.
So far Barty has played just one set, which she lost 6-4, in her ill-fated first match against unlucky German Andrea Petkovic. While the German may have won the set, Barty didn’t look out of place competing against a former top 10 player, dual WTA title winner and Australian Open quarterfinalist.
“To be here representing Australia is a dream come true. There’s no better place to be on a tennis court representing your country,” said Barty.
“I’m playing a former world No.1 next and obviously she’s a Grand Slam champion as well and to get three good matches before the Aussie summer really kicks off and before the Australian Open is great.”
And while the challenge is big, Barty has a good team around her, including former top 20 Australian Jason Stoltenberg, who coaches her and is charged with briefing Barty on how she can pull off what would be one of the great upsets in Hyundai Hopman Cup history.
For Barty though, the plan is simple – be aggressive.
“I think I’ll leave that one up to [coaches] Jase [Stoltenberg] and Jim [Joyce], hopefully they give me a good game plan. But I’ll just go out there and be aggressive as always.”
But Ivanovic will be ready – she has worked with Barty as part of Adidas’s athlete development program.
“She’s a tough opponent, I do know that and she’s been playing some good tennis and I did a couple of things with Adidas with her last year, so I know her since then. It’s going to be a fun match.”
All fun aside, Ivanovic is clearly serious about her campaign this Australian summer. While most players flew in to Perth after Christmas, Ivanovic arrived on 20 December.
Her teammate, Novak Djokovic, arrived late – following his win in Abu Dhabi – but still found time to acclimatise to the Perth heat and chalk up a straight-sets win over Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
Djokovic’s opponent tonight, Tomic, is a player who the Serbian superstar knows well, having played each other in ATP events three times – all have been won by Djokovic.
Despite this, Tomic believes he is in with a chance. And after his get-out-of-jail win over Tommy Haas, Tomic clearly has the potential to worry the world No.1
“I’m very excited for this match on Wednesday and I think it’s a huge opportunity to play a player like that,” said Tomic.
“I think I’m going to be limited to very few chances on Wednesday night but I have to take it when they come by.”
In their three matches, Tomic has taken just one set off Djokovic, which came at Wimbledon 2011 when Tomic stunned the tennis world with his unexpected run to the quarterfinals.
One thing is certain about Tomic though – he loves the big stage. Could tonight be his night?
“He’s played well, he’s Novak and he is the best player in the world right now. For me I’ve got to step on that court believing and then I’m in with a shot,” said Tomic.
“I’m really confident and I believe that I can play really well and who knows?”
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.