The United Cup may be a copy of the Hopman Cup, but that’s still good for Tennis
Author Chales Caleb Colton coined the modern term in 1820 that “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.”
If that is true then take a bow Paul McNamee, Charlie Fancutt and even Pat Cash for the concept they conceived in 1987, a mixed Tennis event known as the Hopman Cup, reborn under the guise of the ‘United Cup’.
After McNamee’s unceremonious ousting as the Director and Chair of the event that he founded, replaced by the ill-conceived, ill-fated ATP Cup, the 2023/2024 version of the International United Cup teams event has intelligently reverted to the original Hopman Cup format of a ladies singles match, a men’s singles match and a mixed doubles match.
And not surprisingly, it was McNamee who advised the organisers to do so, or be doomed to follow the same fate as the ATP Cup.
As a result, the United Cup has drawn the best crowds since Roger Federer last graced the Hopman Cup court in 2019.
It could be argued the ATP Cup was a mere attempt to bring high level tennis back to Sydney in the lead up to the Australian Open, with the calibre of player at the Sydney International dropping significantly as top ranked players chose to rest the week prior to the Open, and so bypassing Sydney.
While some marquee players were sent to venues such as Perth, quality opposition was not, and so it a big ask for tennis fans to part with up to $120 to watch Rafael Nadal play someone ranked nearly 200 in the world.
So there’s much of a ‘back to the future’ scenario at the United Cup, so much so that former long-time host and anchor of the event from ABC television, Karen Tighe, found it hard to not to refer to it as the Hopman Cup when doing live cross updates on the national ABC Grandstand program this weekend.
Karen’s face and voice were familiar fixtures of the Hopman event in Perth during the halcyon days from 1995 to 2010 at the now demolished Burswood Dome.
McNamee was a guest speaker at a corporate event in Perth this week prior to a United Cup tie, which in itself was a surprise to those present considering he has every reason to be very resentful and not set foot near the United Cup event. However, he summed it up beautifully by saying the Hopman Cup has cast a long shadow in tennis in Australia, and on fans and many players.
McNamee’s removal from the tournament he conceived is akin to Henry Ford’s dumping from the board of the company that bore his name and his invention, but McNamee left the audience with a peace of mind take-away quote that gives everyone hope.
“If I can get over it (the loss of the Hopman Cup) then anyone can,” he said.
Game Set and Match, Paul McNamee.