The ATP Cup has replaced the Hopman Cup, which was held in Perth for 30 years. The new tournament is a partnership between the ATP and Tennis Australia, and offers a $22 million prize.
Twenty-four men’s teams will compete in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth over 10 days. The final is in Sydney on January 12.
Great Britain doubles player Jamie Murray said he was “very excited” about the event, after being involved in establishing the new tournament.
His brother, three-time grand slam champion Andy, however, is not playing in Sydney, nor at the Australian Open, due to injury.
“Obviously we are sad for him that he’s not able to be here and compete,” Murray said. “He was desperate to come back to Australia and play again, and be fully fit and put on a good performance for the fans.”
While Murray said it was “disappointing for the team to lose someone as great a player as Andy is”, he said the team would “get on with it and give it their best”.
Henman was quietly confident about his team’s chances.
“Cam and Dan have been practising very well,” he said. “Joe and Jamie are two of the best doubles players in the world and James Ward is coming in as a back up, so I very much like where we are at.”
Murray and Joe Salisbury’s doubles skills could be an advantage for the team if the result of the tie comes down to doubles.
“Joe and I are hopefully a strong team,” Murray said. “We certainly had good success over the last few years separately, and that can definitely give you an advantage I think.
“We’re pretty strong without necessarily being outstanding. We’ve had good success in team competitions before and have found ways to get performances out of ourselves that on paper we wouldn’t be favourites to win.”
He admitted that there would be some challenging opponents.
Murray said that Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Belgium’s world No.7 David Goffin would offer some of the biggest challenges in the tournament.
British No.1 Daniel Evans said all three matches are “really tough”, including the team’s first against Bulgaria.
Canada’s World No.15 Denis Shapovalov questioned the timing of the event so close to the Davis Cup.
“I think it is a little bit strange to have it at a similar time to the Davis Cup,” he said. “It would be great just to have one event that is a world championship.”
Spain would prove a serious challenge for teams in the tournament, with world No.1 Rafael Nadal insisting that he will be giving the ATP Cup all of his focus and not using it as a warm-up in preparation of the Australian Open, which begins in Melbourne on January 20.
Catriona Stirrat is an intern journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.