Serena Williams and Andy Murray to begin 2016 season at Hopman Cup

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Starting in Hopman: Andy Murray and Serena Williams.

World number one Serena Williams and British star Andy Murray will start their 2016 seasons at the Hopman Cup in Perth, organisers said on Wednesday.

An exhausted Williams cut her 2015 season short this month, pulling out of both the China Open and the year-ending WTA Finals, saying she needed "time to heal".

But the American great will be back on court for the January 3-9 tournament as she prepares to defend her Australian Open title at Melbourne Park later that month.

"Perth definitely started something quite amazing so I think it's only natural and fair and reasonable that I go back to Perth," said Williams, who went on to win not only the Australian Open but the French Open and Wimbledon.

She teamed up with John Isner at the mixed team tournament in Perth this year, losing in the final to Poland.

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"We were so close to winning last year. I'm really excited to be back," she said, with doubles specialist Jack Sock her partner in 2016. "For me the Hopman Cup is super great preparation for the Australian Open.

"In 2016 I want to play doubles in Australia so it will be really exciting for me to get there, play some doubles and get some little experience at the Hopman Cup."

Murray will partner Heather Watson for Britain while retiring Australian star Lleyton Hewitt will play alongside Casey Dellacqua.

Among other teams, Gael Monfils and Caroline Garcia play for France while Lucie Safarova and Jiri Vesely turn out for the Czech Republic.

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Ivanovic eases past tricky Watson at Luxembourg Open

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Ana Ivanovic won the Luxembourg Open in 2007.

Former champion Ana Ivanovic is through to the second round of the BGL Luxembourg Open after defeating Britain's Heather Watson 6-4 6-3.

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Ivanovic, winner of the event in 2007, secured an early break to lead 2-0 but the British number two immediately pulled it level, only to lose her serve again in the next game on the way to dropping the opening set.

Watson saved a couple of break points to hold serve and get herself on the board in the fifth game of the second set at 4-1 and then rallied by breaking the Serb to make it 5-3.

At 40-0 up on her own serve Watson looked like moving to within a game of her opponent, but she imploded with three double faults to hand the match to the number two seed.

The other two seeds in action on Tuesday also progressed, with third seed Sara Errani coming from a set and a break down to beat French qualifier Julie Coin 5-7 6-4 6-1 and Barbora Strycova, seeded seven, overcoming Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-2.

Swiss wildcard Stefanie Voegele, ranked 165 in the world, was leading 6-3 4-0 against Urszula Radwanska when her Polish opponent retired injured, while Alison Van Uytvanck, Johanna Larsson and Denisa Allertova also made it through to the second round.

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#360view: Can Djokovic sustain his world-beating form?

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Top of the world: Novak Djokovic.

You’d run out of superlatives to describe Novak Djokovic at the moment. The word ‘dominant’ simply does not suffice. His 2011 season – that was dominant. Djokovic has taken that several steps forward straight into outrageous territory.

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Making 13 finals in a row out of 14 events entered in total, winning nine titles (so far) including three grand slams and five Masters 1000s, amassing a 73-5 win-loss tally… and the season is not even over yet.

Djokovic’s list of achievements in 2015 is reminiscent of Roger Federer’s holy 2006 season – a year where the Swiss scooped 12 titles, including three majors and four Masters 1000 crowns, registered a 92-5 win-loss record, made 11 finals in a row and won the year-end Masters Cup.

One common theme between Djokovic this year and Federer nine years ago is how untouchable they seem. Then why does it feel Djokovic is just a tad more dominant in comparison? The simple answer is: Rafael Nadal.

While Federer’s 2006 was out of this world, the Swiss still lost to Nadal four times that season – three times on clay and once on the hardcourts of Dubai.

Federer was in superhuman form yet Nadal was repeatedly pulling one of his feet back onto human ground. Djokovic however – barring one significant beatdown by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final – really is a class apart.

Yes, he lost two finals to Federer in Dubai and Cincinnati (along with losses to Andy Murray and Ivo Karlovic), but when it matters the most, Djokovic delivers.

There is a Hulk-like manner in the way he’s been winning. His roars emerge from a place so deep inside him, they are the sound of a man out with something to prove – not just to the world, but to himself. He’s set such a high standard for himself and he keeps wanting to surpass it.

Growing up in a war-torn country, inheriting the work ethics of his late coach and mentor Jelena Gencic, breaking through as a player with talent but some physical weaknesses, and fighting against two legends of the game in Federer and Nadal – all of these have contributed to the way Djokovic operates today.

Not many predicted he would reach double digits in slams when he won his first in 2008. He now has 10 majors, just four behind Nadal and seven behind Federer. It’s hard to imagine he won’t catch at least one of them.

Level-wise, he is now a man of no weaknesses. He’s better than everyone else and is actually still improving.

The question of course is: how long can he sustain this? He himself doesn’t know and while it doesn’t feel like it, things change in tennis fairly quickly.

Less than two years ago, Nadal was wrapping up one of his best-ever seasons – he won two slams in 2013, made 14 finals in 17 events and claimed 10 titles in total. He was No. 1 in the world up until Djokovic dethroned him in June last year. 

Sixteen months later and people are (unwisely) writing Nadal off for good. Granted Djokovic does not have Nadal’s physical struggles but as the Serb continues to remind us – and himself – you can never take anything for granted.

With the essence of his motivation always stemming from within, Djokovic must find a way to maintain that. If he does, he could literally achieve anything he could wish for. 

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