PERTH, Australia — When Serena Williams and Roger Federer played against each other for the first time, on Tuesday night at the Hopman Cup, it was the ultimate expression of an event that has brought the best men and best women in tennis together for more than three decades.
But despite the power of seeing Williams and Federer on opposite sides of the net, the future of the Hopman Cup is uncertain, with a new men’s team event set to eclipse it, part of a trend of realignment and reinvention in tennis. Tennis Australia, which manages the Hopman Cup, will next year help organize the ATP Cup, a 10-day tournament that will have men’s teams from 24 countries competing across three Australian cities for ranking points and $15 million in prize money.
With mixed doubles increasingly outstripped in prize money and prestige at Grand Slam events, the Hopman Cup — with two-person teams from eight countries competing in singles and mixed doubles — is the lone place to see top men and top women team up besides the Olympics.
Though Federer did not participate in the Hopman Cup through the middle years of his career, he has a long attachment to the event, first coming to Perth as a hitting partner in 1999. He won the tournament with Martina Hingis in 2001 about a month before taking his first title on the ATP Tour. At the next Hopman Cup, he partnered with his future wife, Mirka Vavrinec.
“Men and women, we share a lot of tournaments together, but it’s not the same as when you play each other or share the same court,” Federer said. “So I think the players have always enjoyed this event.”
The Hopman Cup’s distinction as a mixed event stands in contrast to the trend of new team tennis concepts for men only. Tennis Australia has taken an aggressive role in event creation, cofounding the men-only Laver Cup and the ATP Cup in recent years.
That focus on men’s tennis could doom the coed Hopman Cup. The host cities for the ATP Cup have not yet been announced, but the state-of-the-art Perth Arena, where the Hopman Cup has been held since 2013, is a likely choice. Even if Perth is not chosen, it would be difficult to imagine Tennis Australia hosting two competing team events in the same week.
The Hopman Cup remains an oddity in its 31st year, at once a playful exhibition that serves as a relaxing lead-up to the Australian Open and, since 1997, an officially sanctioned International Tennis Federation event.
The tournament has been bankrolled by the Western Australian government’s tourism body, Tourism W.A. Player appearance contracts have included clauses forbidding them from criticizing Perth, and at times the programming can feel like an infomercial for the region. After his first match at this year’s tournament, Federer gave an on-court interview that centered on his appreciation for the region and a photo shoot at a scenic rock formation nearby.
Among locals, the main concern is less about preserving the Hopman Cup and more about making sure that isolated Perth, which is 1,300 miles from another city of more than 100,000 people, keeps a foothold in tennis and is not left out of the pre-Australian Open swing.
In the wider tennis community, the Hopman Cup’s uniqueness is appreciated. It has rarely sparked the tribal passions on which Davis Cup prides itself, but the Hopman Cup has been a crowd-pleasing event, cherished by tennis fans who have savored the opportunity to see the sport’s top women and top men compete and commingle.
The New Year’s Day battle of Williams and Frances Tiafoe against Federer and Belinda Bencic represented an apex of many captivating Hopman Cup combinations. Marat Safin and Dinara Safina, the only brother-sister pair to both reach the No. 1 ranking, played together for Russia in 2009. Boris Becker and Steffi Graf played together in 1992 for the only time in their careers, a pairing of stars so sought after that a German television station helped the tournament organizers pay the players’ appearance fees.
The tournament has also featured some irresistible matchups of men’s and women’s stars who would never otherwise intersect. In the 2011 final, the 5-foot-5 Justine Henin tried to return the booming serve of the 6-foot-10 John Isner.
Not everyone is ready to write an obituary for the event, though. David Haggerty, president of the I.T.F., which sanctions the Hopman Cup as its official mixed team competition, said the event was “very, very important and should continue.”
Haggerty said he expected Tennis Australia to honor its remaining contractual obligations for managing the Hopman Cup in the first week of the season, which run through 2022.
“We’re just excited to continue to see Hopman Cup through because it is a great way to have the men and women playing,” said Haggerty, who spearheaded a massive overhaul of the Davis Cup format last year despite strong resistance from governing bodies, including Tennis Australia.
If Saturday’s final was the event’s last gasp, it had a breathtaking finish, with Federer and Bencic prevailing in an 18-shot rally on a winner-take-all final point against Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber, clinching a second straight title for the Swiss pair.
Tennis Australia’s Paul Kilderry, who serves as the Hopman Cup’s tournament director, declined to comment for this article, citing uncertainty about the tournament’s future.
As Haggerty expressed reason for the Hopman Cup to endure, Ross Hutchins, the ATP vice president for player relations, was scouting Perth Arena as a potential venue for the ATP Cup, for which he will be managing director. Hutchins is also visiting Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, which all have existing tennis facilities.
“Ultimately we thought this time of year, leading into a Grand Slam, is important to do something major in, and that’s what we will target,” Hutchins said. “This event will be a major event on the ATP Tour.”
The ATP Cup is landing in a jam-packed first week of the tennis season, which this year has seven tournaments: the Hopman Cup; WTA tournaments in Auckland, New Zealand, and Shenzhen, China; ATP tournaments in Doha, Qatar, and Pune, India; and a combined ATP-WTA tournament in Brisbane. Hutchins said only one of the ATP events would remain on the schedule as a complement to the ATP Cup, with no survivor yet designated.
The ATP is eager to add more events that it will own outright. The ATP Cup will be the third new annual men’s team event introduced since 2017. The Federer-backed Laver Cup, which pits a European team against one from the rest of the world, is held in September. The reworked 18-country Davis Cup will culminate in November. Hutchins said he thought there was room for all three to flourish.
“I don’t think there is a fatigue of team events because it’s not something that we think is diluted, and they’re all slightly different,” he said.
But there is nothing quite like the Hopman Cup on the horizon. Without any fixed plans for the event’s end or its continuation, players and organizers at this year’s tournament participated with a mixture of wistfulness and confusion.
In the afterglow of her match with Federer, Williams was caught off-guard by a question about the Hopman Cup’s probable demise. “Oh, really? I never heard that,” Williams said. “It would be heartbreaking.”