Roger Federer teams with Belinda Bencic for 2017 Hopman Cup 2016 images

Roger Federer was expected to play in the 2016 International Premier Tennis League earlier this month. However, he and Serena Williams both pulled out of the event late, much to the disappointment of fans that were looking forward to seeing the two stars. The anticipation of Federer’s return to tennis is growing, with the 2017 Hopman Cup his next expected event.

The Hopman Cup is an exhibition tournament that is played in Perth, Australia. It runs concurrent to ATP Doha, ATP Chennai, and ATP Brisbane. In recent seasons, Federer has shown a preference for the latter event, one that he made the final in last season. While those three events offer ranking points for results, there is also a chance that you might only get one match in if you lose early because of the straight-elimination format. Federer’s choice to enter the Hopman Cup was likely made to guarantee himself multiple matches due to the round-robin format.

The tournament features 16 players as a part of 8 teams. Each team, drawn upon national lines, has one ATP player and one WTA player. Federer will team with compatriot Belinda Bencic, easily making their duo the most-talented team in the tournament. Bencic, who is just 19 years old, is the leading talent among similarly-aged players on the WTA tour. Both her and Federer had injury problems in 2016, but if they play close to their best, then there isn’t another team that can be expected to stop them.

But there is a fair chance, of course, that Bencic and Federer won’t play near their best. The Australian team of Daria Gavrilova and Nick Kyrgios is a talented one as well. Furthermore, the French team features Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic.

Other big names currently listed as part of the upcoming Hopman Cup are Petra Kvitova, Feliciano Lopez, Coco Vandeweghe, and Jack Sock. Kvitova is the most proven player in that quartet, but she has Adam Pavlasek as a teammate, so that hurts the Czechs’ chances. Furthermore, less than a week ago Kvitova tweeted a pic of herself wearing a brace for a fractured foot. In more recent tweets she wasn’t wearing the brace so perhaps she’ll be fine in early January. However, fans should be warned that the exhibition tournaments aren’t great for retaining the players that originally appear on the players’ list. The IPTL is a great case in point as both Williams and Federer withdrew from the event after it had already started.

In regard to tour events, obviously Federer won’t be in Chennai, Brisbane, or Doha as the Hopman Cup is concurrent to those tournaments. I don’t see his name on the players list for either Sydney or Auckland afterward either. In fact, it would be entirely out of character for Federer to enter either of those events as a late entrant as he always rests in the week immediately before a major. That being the case, Federer is expected to make his return to a ranking-point event at the 2017 Australian Open, a tournament that is now less than one month away from starting. He has 870 ranking points to defend in January (Brisbane + Melbourne Park), meaning that if the Aussie is a bad event for him he could fall out of the Top 30.

The Swiss Maestro is currently 5th favorite for the 2017 Australian Open by bet365’s betting odds. That implies a quarterfinal finish, however, I think he’ll need one of his cushy draws in order for that to happen as he will enter the event with just exhibition matches over a lengthy six-month period.