Serbia’s quest to win the Hopman Cup title came to an end on Saturday as they were defeated by Spain in the finals. It wasn’t the result most people were expecting and that many of us were hoping for, but we did end up getting an exciting and drama packed final.
Novak Djokovic kicked things off with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Fernando Verdasco. With Serbia up 1-0 and needing just one win to clinch the title, the stage was all Ana’s. A win over Anabel Medina Garrigues would make Serbia Hopman Cup champs for the first time ever. Ivanovic begin the day with a 3-1 lifetime record against the Spaniard, having won their last three meetings, the most recent occurring in the 2011 Bali finals. Ana’s form had been brilliant all week and she was expected by most to win this match without much problem. Things did not go according to plan, however.
It was just not Ana’s day. She played poorly from the get-go and was unable to find her form that easily got her through group play with relative ease. Ivanovic dropped the first set 6-4 and had to at one point call for a trainer, complaining of feeling ill. After taking a pill, Ana went back out on court and continued on. Ivanovic lead 5-2 in the second set only to see that lead evaporate. She did regroup, however, and won the second set in a tiebreak. With momentum now seemingly on Ana’s side, she was now just one set away from bringing home the diamonds. Anabel Medina Garrigues never relented, though, and she immediately ended any momentum Ana had gained from winning the second set tiebreak by breaking Ana to take a 3-0 lead in the 3rd set. Ana looked gassed and her legs looked heavy. With nothing much left in the tank, Ana lost the set and the match along with it 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2. With the tie all knotted up at 1-1, the Hopman Cup final would be decided in mixed doubles.
All week long, I, like many others, wanted to see Spain play Serbia in the finals so we could witness the awkwardness of Ana Ivanovic and Fernando Verdasco being on the same court at the same time. Be careful what you wish for. As fun as it might be to see Ana returning serves from her ex-boyfriend (it was anything but) and vice-versa, the Spaniards were the better overall doubles team. Garrigues has won 18 career doubles titles and her doubles skills showed throughout the match. Verdasco, who like Ana, can be unreliable on his serve, was lights out today in mixed doubles. Ana couldn’t do anything with his serve. She was aced on at least half of the serves she saw from him. Or at least it felt like it.
After dropping the first set in mixed doubles 6-4, Serbia looked poised to force the match into an all-decisive super-tiebreak. Leading 4-3 in the second set, the Serbs had three break points to go up 5-3, with Djokovic’s next service game to follow. Convert on one of these and they probably take the set. They couldn’t convert on any of them, and two games later, Serbia was broken on Ana’s serve which proved to be fatal. Verdasco would go onto close out the match on his serve to clinch the Hopman Cup title for Spain.
This was no doubt a disappointment, and a somewhat surprising result. Serbia begin the week as the favorites to win it all, and as soon as the US team was eliminated, they were perceived to be even a bigger favorite. As one of the television commentators who was calling the match joked, many were ready to engrave Serbia’s name onto the trophy before any of today’s matches started. In sports, the action on the court doesn’t always goes the way it was scripted.
Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows how much I love this pairing and how badly I wanted to see them win. They missed out of the finals in their first go around back in 2006, when Ana and Novak were still teenagers. Two years ago, after going 3-0 in group play, Serbia seemed destined to win the Hopman Cup, only having to withdraw on the eve of the final because of an abdominal injury Ana had suffered. I truly believed the third time would be the charm, and it looked that way early on.
Seeing Ana and Nole come up short was a bit heartbreaking, even though it was just an exhibition. We haven’t had many things to get overly excited about in the past few years, and with Ana not being a real contender at any major event, at least in the near future, this would have been a pretty nice consolation prize. So while many other fans will brush Hopman Cup off as just another exo, it means more to some than it does to others. All you have to do is see Anabel Medina Garrigues reaction after winning both her singles and doubles matches. It was that of pure joy. You don’t see that at any other exo, and it was a bit sad we weren’t able to see that from Ana and Novak this past weekend. For all the fun and giggles the two shared together, you just know they really wanted to finally win this title.
With all that being said, give credit where credit is due. Anabel Medina Garrigues played wonderful tennis all week and especially today, and she was the major reason why Spain is Hopman Cup champions.
Let’s not allow this one loss to ruin what was a very fun and enjoyable first week of the year. I enjoyed every minute of it. There were plenty of highlights from this past week that were absolute treasures, none more than Novak dragging Ana onto the court to dance to ‘Gangnam Style’. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out. The entire mixed doubles match from Friday night is must see. It had everything from Novak imitating Ana, Nole and Ana switching roles with the ball kids, Gangnam Style and much more.
The hope is that Ana and Nole will return again next year and finally win the title that they have long been chasing.