Nice | Croatia win the Hopman Cup, beating Switzerland in the final

Croatia’s Donna Vekic and Borna Coric lifted the Hopman Cup trophy after defeating Switzerland in the final at the Nice Lawn Tennis Club in France on Sunday, the second time Croatia has taken the honours.

It was really a lot of fun playing with Borna. We have known each other for almost 20 years, and we’ve never played doubles before now. So far, we’re unbeaten! Donna Vekic

Switzerland were looking to defend the title that Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic had so successfully won in 2018 and 2019, but with the former now retired and the latter injured, it was down to Celine Naef and Leandro Riedi to bring home the goods.

This year’s edition of the Hopman Cup was the 32nd of the mixed-gender national team competition, returning after a 4-year hiatus and moved from its traditional indoor venue in Perth, Western Australia, to the outdoor clay courts of Nice.

The event, which was named after Australian Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman and was first played in 1989, featured 6 teams representing their nations in a round-robin format, followed by a final between the top two teams.

Croatia reached the final by topping Group B with wins over Belgium and Spain, while Switzerland finished first in Group A behind France and Denmark.

After Croatia edged out Spain 2-1 on Saturday, and Switzerland stunned France 2-1 on Friday, the final, Vekic and Coric proved too strong for Naed and Rieldi and landed the title after the two singles rubber, rendering the mixed doubles match redundant.

“When we came here, we were both not playing our best tennis, and we had never played mixed doubles,” said Coric. “We were not sure how it was going to play out, but we were very happy that we were playing, and it was my pleasure to be here with Donna.”

Celine Naef and Leandro Riedi were surprise finalists at the Hopman Cup but could not get past Croatia

Both of Croatia’s group ties had boiled down to the mixed, where Vekic and Coric held their nerve to win tense match tiebreaks against Belgium’s Elise Mertens & David Goffin and Spanish duo Rebeka Masarova & Carlos Alcaraz.

World No. 1 Alcaraz had won both of his singles matches during the week to continue the stunning form which saw him conquer all before him at Wimbledon and claim his second Grand Slam title only days earlier.

Ultimately, however, Croatia were not to be denied and their victory evoked memories of 1996 when Goran Ivanisevic and Iva Majoli, this year’s tournament director, guided their nation to victory over a Swiss team featuring Martina Hingis and Marc Rosset.

“It was really a lot of fun playing with Borna,” Vekic said. “We have known each other for almost 20 years, and we’ve never played doubles before now. So far, we’re unbeaten!”

Vekic, ranked 20, had defeated Zhang Shuai and Sloane Stephens at the 2023 Wimbledon Championships before losing to eventual champion Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets in the 3rd-round.

Opening proceedings on finals day by taking on Naef, the greatly more experienced Croat showed her class and quality to brush aside a spirited effort from the World No 165., winning through, 6-3 6-4, in just under an hour and 30 minutes to get Croatia off to a perfect start.

Coric, the World No 13, had a disappointing exit from Wimbledon, falling to Argentine Guido Pella in 5 sets in the 1st-round, but he found form in Nice, sweeping aside Riedi, 6-1 6-4, to move the Croatians into an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie.

Although Riedi upset the odds during the group stage when he beat World No 6 Holger Rune, during the Switzerland’s tie against Denmark, he could not do produce the same form in the final.

A delighted Donna Vekic celebrates with Borna Coric after Croatia wins the Hopman Cup for the second time since 1989 when the team competition was founded

Vekic and Coric have been a revelation as a team, enhancing each other’s considerable talents as a pairing, and this was evident in their hugely impressive win over Carlos Alcaraz and Rebeka Masarova of Spain in the decisive mixed doubles match to reach the final.

The remaining mixed doubles match, however, was not played, and Vekic and Coric celebrated their historic victory by embracing each other and holding the trophy aloft.

They had also celebrated their friendship together with a birthday bash for Vekic ahead of Wimbledon, when they were joined by Bencic.

It has been a welcome return, if a somewhat understated one, for the Hopman Cup this summer, having left the calendar after its last edition in 2019 to some consternation, to be replaced by the short-lived ATP Cup as the curtain-raiser for the new season.

There is a genuine appetite among both players and fans for a mixed-gender international team competition after the loss of the Hopman Cup, which has been met to a degree by the hugely successful United Cup, with its inaugural edition taking place this January.

The return of the Hopman Cup, now in a new if rather unsatisfactory position in the calendar the week after Wimbledon, is a welcome distraction from the intense back-to-back clay and grass-court swings on the ATP and the WTA schedule, but it needs a better date if the top players are to be attracted to participate again.

The 2023 prize giving ceremony at Sunday's Hopman Cup held at the Nice Lawn Tennis Club in France



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