Former French number one's Richard Gasquet and Kristina Mladenovic will pair for the first time in Perth to try and win the Hopman Cup for France for the second time. Both have taken part just once before with Gasquet coming close to a win as he narrowly missed out on the title with partner Marion Bartoli in 2012. They are placed in group A and competition will be in a round robin format which starts on 2nd January for them as they take on Germany, before competing against Great Britain and then Switzerland.
The Frenchman had an injury-plagued start to the season this season but came back in winning style clinching the title in Montpellier in February. The 30-year-old added another title in the closing stages of the season winning the inaugural Antwerp but it was not enough for him to hold his top 10 ranking from 2015 as the Frenchman ended the year ranked 18. This time round, Gasquet will be looking for a better start as he opens his campaign in the Hopman Cup competing for just the second time. The Frenchman holds a decent 5-1 record in both the singles and mixed doubles with the only loss coming in the 2012 final to Tomas Berdych.
Mladenovic ended 2015 ranked in the top 30 but a run of poor results and many early round losses saw her rankings slide down to 42 at the end of 2016. The Frenchwoman begins her 2017 season at the Hopman Cup where she last played in 2011. She holds a 3-2 record and will be hoping she gets some wins to better the start in 2016 where she headed to the Australian Open with zero wins under her belt. She usually excels in team competitions and is known for her doubles skills which could prove to be useful in the mixed doubles tie.
In the opening match, the duo takes on team Germany which comprises of the experienced Andrea Petkovic and ATP next generation star, Alexander Zverev. Mladenovic will have a task on her hand as she has not beat the German on four previous occasions. As for Gasquet, it will mark the first meeting with Zverev and this tie could go either way.
The team of Great Britain awaits the French in the next match. Mladenovic leads the head-to-head against Britain’s Heather Watson by a narrow margin of 3-2. However, their last match was in 2014, and it could prove to be a tantalizing clash and Watson could have the slight edge having just competed this year in the Hopman Cup. Gasquet has the upper hand of his opponent Daniel Evans whom he beat in their only meeting.
The Swiss team could yet be their biggest threat with Roger Federer in their side alongside teen sensation Belinda Bencic. Federer has a staggering 15-2 record over the Frenchman while the women are split 1-1. However, with both the Swiss stars making their comebacks from injury, it would be interesting to see if the French can take advantage.
Mladenovic and Gasquet will need to be consistent and hope that they can build a good rapport in the doubles to make it out of the tough group.