By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - The mixed-gender Hopman Cup team event is set to return in 2021 after losing its traditional New Year slot on the tennis calendar, International Tennis Federation (ITF) President David Haggerty said on Wednesday.
This year's 31st edition of the tournament, unique in that it is the only top-level mixed team event, saw Roger Federer lead Switzerland to the title in Perth against Germany in what fans and players feared would be a golden swansong.
Next year's inaugural ATP Cup, a new men's team competition based in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, and offering $20 million in prize money together with ranking points, has taken the Hopman Cup's popular pre-Australian Open warm-up slot, but Haggerty insists it will return.
"Absolutely," the American, re-elected last month for a second four-year term as ITF president, told Reuters in a phone interview when asked if one of the organisation's flagship events still had a future.
"Our plan is to re-introduce it for 2021. We don't have plans for the Hopman Cup in 2020 but we are going out to the market for expressions of interest and we have already had quite a few enquiries."
Haggerty said there was flexibility about where and at what time of year the Hopman Cup would re-surface and did not rule out it continuing in Australia.
Last year's edition of the event, named in honour of Australian great Harry Hopman and started in 1989, was a vintage one with the highlight being a first-ever match featuring Federer and Serena Williams on opposite sides of the net.
"It could really be anywhere in the world and any time in the calendar," American Haggerty, who has overseen a revamp of the men's Davis Cup and women's Fed Cup, said.
"The reason to do the expressions of interest is really to get the feedback from the nations and cities that have an interest and see what their proposal would be," he added.
"I can confirm we have interest from every continent."
Federer voiced his hope that the Hopman Cup could be revived after winning last year's title while Williams said it would be "heartbreaking" if it vanished.
Haggerty said the Hopman Cup format, which features men's and women's singles and a mixed doubles rubber, was an important part of the ITF's drive for equality in the sport.
"We know how successful the Hopman Cup was last year with Serena playing for the United States and Roger representing Switzerland," Haggerty said.
"When they played the mixed doubles it filled the stadium with over 15,000 fans. Any tournament would love to have that even for their singles final.
"We know that when men and women come together it's one of the great things for our sport."
The Hopman Cup, played in the Perth Arena from 2013-19 having moved from the Burswood Dome, was the first elite-level tennis tournament to introduced the Hawkeye Challenge system in 2006.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)