x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Li will lead China into Hopman Cup

Li Na will lead China's first foray into the mixed team Hopman Cup at Australia.

Li Na will lead China's first Hopman Cup mixed team tennis venture in Australia.
Li Na will lead China's first Hopman Cup mixed team tennis venture in Australia.

Li Na, the women's French Open champion, will lead China's first foray into the mixed team Hopman Cup at the start of next season, organisers said Thursday in Australia.

Li, the world No 5, will join Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, in the tournament in Perth, starting December 31. Kvitova will be playing with Tomas Berdych, the men's world No 9 in a strong Czech Republic team.

"I'm happy to be playing Hopman Cup for the first time," Li said.

"I've heard many good things about the tournament and the city. I hope we can do well, and in the remainder of the Australian season."

Li, Asia's first grand slam singles champion, enjoyed a storming start to this season in Australia by winning the Sydney International title and finishing runner-up at the Australian Open.

Her 19-year-old partner, Wu Di, is ranked 422 in the world, a reflection of the inability of China's men to emulate the success of their female compatriots.

China has never been represented in the main draw at the tournament, losing to the Dutch in a preliminary play-off in 2006.

Lleyton Hewitt will represent Australia for the sixth time, pairing with Jarmila Gajdosova in the hopes of winning the title for the hosts for the first time since 1999.

"I'm really excited to be heading back to Perth for the Hopman Cup in January," said the former world No 1.

"I'm looking forward to being 100 per cent fit, and for me the Hopman Cup is a great start to the year. I love playing for my country, and it will be good to team up with Jarmila and have a crack at the title."

John Isner and Bethanie Mattek-Sands claimed a sixth Hopman Cup title for the US last year.

Elsewhere, Serena Williams's hopes of claiming a third consecutive title in the build-up to the US Open were shattered when she was forced to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open, in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a toe injury.

Also pulling out due to injury was Victoria Azarenka.