Andy Murray has given his backing to a new mixed team event to be staged Down Under in January where he could partner Emma Raducanu. The £13million ($15m) United Cup will be staged in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney as a high-profile warm-up event before the Australian Open.
And the mixed competition – backed by the WTA and ATP – will aim to build on the huge popularity of Olympic events like the triathlon, swimming and athletics where men and women compete in the same teams.
Self-confessed “feminist” Murray broke ground by becoming the first top male player to appoint a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo. And the Scot said: “I think it’s something that’s been missing from our calendar for a while. I love to see the men and women competing together on the same court as well. It’s something that I’m very excited about.
“I think we are the only sort of global sport where the men and women compete at the same venues at the same time for the biggest tournaments. And I think that that’s something that’s really special about our sport and should be celebrated. So I think events like this will help bring all of the governing bodies closer together and it’ll be a unique event for our sport.
“I’m sure all the players will be extremely passionate about competing for their countries and you’ll see the men and women working together and supporting each other all the way through, which will be really cool.”
Serena Williams’ mixed doubles match against Roger Federer in the old Hopman Cup in 2019 nearly broke the internet. And tournament director Stephen Farrow added: “It is also a really big statement for Tennis Australia and the sport about equality and equality of opportunity.
“This is women and men sharing the same platform, same points, same prize money. It is equality at every level of this competition. I think it is going to have a really big impact.”
Eighteen teams will enter the event which starts on December 29 and ends with the Final Four in Sydney from January 6-8. Twelve teams will be picked from the top six players in the WTA and ATP rankings while the final six will come from the combined rankings of the two top-ranked players. Cam Norrie and Raducanu currently qualify Great Britain while Murray will make the team if he is ranked in the British top three. Each tie will see four singles and a mixed doubles.
“We do think that Britain will make the cut,” said Farrow. Serbia will qualify if Novak Djokovic is allowed back into Australia. The Wimbledon champion was deported in January because of his anti-tax stance and faced a three-year ban from re-entering the country.
But speaking at The O2 in September, the world No.7 said: “It’s really not in my hands right now. I’m hoping I can get some positive news soon.”
Farrow added: “In common with all players, he would have to enter by November 7 and then we would have to see where the process ends up with regards to him coming back here. Obviously, the situation with Novak coming into Australia has been spoken about a lot. That is a matter for him and the Federal Government.”
The Australian Open starts in Melbourne on January 16.