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Fantastic
Oct 19th, 2003, 06:28 PM
This will hopefully turn into a regular series of flashbacks. For the first edition we travel back in time to...

The Inaugural Year

The Hopman Cup by Swan Gold

CLASS OF 1988-1989:

1. Czechoslovakia - Miloslav Mecir and Helena Sukova
2. Australia - Pat Cash and Hana Mandlikova
3. West Germany - Patrik Kuhnen and Steffi Graf
4. Sweden - Mikael Pernfors and Catarina Lindqvist

France - Thierry Tulasne and Pascale Paradis
Yugoslavia - Slobodan Zivojinovic and Karmen Skulj
Japan - Shuzo Matsuoka and Masako Yanagi
Great Britain - Jeremy Bates and Sarah Loosemore

The original cast of players began with the signing of 1987 Wimbledon Champion, Pat Cash. His agreeance to play wasn't quite as surprising as the signing of women's World No. 1 player, Steffi Graf in mid-July of 1988, still in the middle of her Golden Grand Slam-winning run. Graf was to be the star of the inaugural Hopman Cup. She was a much-needed marquee name and a major force in the tournament securing a sponsor and television rights. But her signing still came as a shock to original Tournament Organizer, Paul MacNamee. He never expected anyone the calibre of Graf to support a tournament that had never been tested before.

Cash was paired with adopted Aussie, Hana Mandlikova, the 1987 Australian Open Champion. Mandlikova had sat out the latter half of 1988 due to injury. Ready to get back into the fold, the Hopman Cup was the first step in her comeback to competitive tennis. Graf was paired with Patrik Kuhnen, a relatively unknown journeyman. Cash then managed to convince friends Mikael Pernfors and Jeremy Bates to hop on board and represent their respective countries - Sweden and Great Britain. Big-serving Yugoslavian, Slobodan Zivojinovic, was then signed on to play alongside Sabrina Goles.

The names kept coming and the top seeds were found in the form of Czechoslovakia. Miloslav Mecir was the only player to beat Mats Wilander in a Grand Slam event in 1988. Helena Sukova was coming off a good 1988 that saw her finish seventh in the world.

The inaugural tie was between Australia and Great Britain. Pat Cash and Jeremy Bates were to play the first history-making match. Cash triumphed with a hard-fought 6-3 7-6 victory. The first mixed doubles match then took to the court. It was also the first appearance of Hana Mandlikova for her newly adopted country, and the first glimpse the tennis world would have of teenager, Sarah Loosemore. The experience of Cash and Mandlikova proved too great for the Brits, who were trounced in straight sets. With the tie already decided, the women took to the court for an exhibition singles match. Mandlikova was favoured to win easily, but it was surprise packet Loosemore who stunned the crowd with a one-sided 6-1 6-2 win over the multiple Grand Slam champion.

In other first round matches, Czechoslovakia saw off Japan, but not without a tense struggle. In the first match, Shuzo Matsuoka stunned world No. 13, Miloslav Mecir, with a straight sets victory. Playing to justify their top seeding, the Czech combined to take on Matsuoka and veteran, Masako Yanagi, in the mixed doubles. With Sukova's doubles expertise and current good form, the Czech levelled the tie with a decisive victory. Down to the womens' singles, and Yanagi put in a competitive first set before Sukova took control to secure a 6-3 6-0 win.

Sweden saw off a depleted Yugoslavia. Sabrina Goles withdrew at the eleventh hour and was replaced by junior player, Karmen Skulj. Pernfors was an easy victor over Zivojinovic, and then teamed with Catarina Lindqvist to rally past Zivojinovic and Skulj. Lastly, the French team went out to the West German pairing of Graf and Kuhnen. Graf accounted for Pascale Paradis for the loss of three games. The West Germans struggled in the mixed doubles but eventually overcame the French.

Into the semi-finals and the competition became tougher. The Czechs took on the Swedes. Mikael Pernfors accounted for the listless Miloslav Mecir, leaving the Czech to once-again fight for it in the mixed doubles. And once again, it was Helena Sukova to the rescue. She then later wrapped up the tie with an emphatic 6-2 6-3 victory over Lindqvist. The highlight of the week was Australia against the West Germans. Steffi Graf put the Aussies on the ropes with a 6-0 6-1 steamroll of Mandlikova. Looking to redeem themselves in the mixed doubles, Cash exposed the West German weak link - Steffi Graf! Time after time, Graf found no reply to Cash's questions and the tie was levelled at 1-1. Down to the deciding mens' singles and it was a tense affair with a highly-strung Kuhnen up against the scrapping Cash. After a close first set, the second became even tougher. It took Cash all of his mental resolve to secure an Australian berth in the Inaugural Hopman Cup.

Finals night approached and the news was that both men were taken ill. That left the women to start off proceedings, giving the men time to recover in the meanwhile. Mandlikova came out determined to make amends for her dismal efforts against Loosemore and Graf. She didn't disappoint but fell short of the all-conquering Sukova, who saw off Mandlikova 6-4 6-3. The men took to the court for the mixed doubles but neither were able to play at their best, leaving the women to take the lead roles. It was the indominatible Sukova who took charge of affairs to secure victory for Czechoslovakia in the first-ever Hopman Cup.

Inaugural Champions: Czechoslovakia - Miloslav Mecir and Helena Sukova.