The shape of things to come


Paul McNamee is hopeful of Hopman Cup gaining popularity

The Asian Hopman Cup is here to stay and the next edition may have eight teams as that is the maximum any round-robin format can accommodate, feels Paul McNamee, tournament director of Hopman Cup . Pleased with the crowd response despite the absence of the big guns of Asian tennis, McNamee (who was a member of the Australian squad which won the Davis Cup twice in 1983 and 86), hopes that Sania Mirza will make a huge impact in the next edition in January next. "We are keen to see how Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna fare in Perth," he says. For someone who has handled 12 editions of Australian Open, McNamee says that the most difficult aspect of the Hopman Cup is to get the players to squeeze the event into their schedule. But, he doesn't think that the timing of the event before the Australian Open event is a major handicap. "In a way, this should be the ideal warm-up event," he points out. Is he surprised by the emergence of Sania Mirza? `Not really. For I was the one who gave her the wild card entry in the Australian Open when she lost to Serena Williams in the third round," he reminds. "She is hungry for big results. She is at her peak physically too. She should have a wonderful season next year," he says. "It is obvious that the Hopman Cup needs more Asian players. From what we had seen here and in Bangalore during the other big events, they simply love tennis." "They are deeply involved in the game. Definitely, men's tennis needs some more big names. But Sania is bound to be the star attraction for quite some time now in any event," he says.This Australian has a word of praise for the Asian Tennis Federation for accepting the huge challenge. "No doubt, the timing of the event before the Asian Games this year was the reason for the absence of some big names. But it should be a major draw for next year onwards," he feels. For someone who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald as a member of the victorious Aussie Davis Cup squad twice, he should know what he says!