Glamour Serbian duo keen to atone at Hopman
Serbian glamour pairing Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic hope it will be a case of third time lucky when they join forces at the Hopman Cup starting on Saturday.
The duo are top seeds for the $1 million tournament at the new Perth Arena, and the long-time friends will be competing in the event together for the third time, having also teamed up in 2006 and 2011.
However, the unique mixed teams tournament has not been a happy hunting ground for the pair, with near misses at both of their previous appearances.
Their first attempt was under the banner of Serbia and Montenegro, and they missed the final in favour of eventual champions Taylor Dent and Lisa Raymond of the United States on a countback of sets won during the round robin stage.
Last year, they went one better and qualified for the final, only for Ivanovic to be ruled out with an abdominal strain, allowing Belgium to take their place in the title playoff, which was again won by the United States.
Ivanovic, ranked 13th in the world, said she felt like the pair had unfinished business in Perth as they accelerate their preparations for the upcoming Australian Open Grand Slam, starting on January 14 in Melbourne.
"Novak and I have been playing this tournament for a few years now, so we really hope we can take a step forward and this year go all the way," the 2008 French Open champion said.
"I felt so bad and for Novak too (at the 2011 tournament).
"I really hope this year we can put it together and go all the way. We were so close and it was a bit disappointing the way it ended."
Ivanovic, who has set her sights on a return to the top 10 in 2013, said she enjoyed teaming up with Djokovic, the world No 1 who has won four Grand Slams in the last two years, including the past two Australian Opens.
"He is one of the very few persons I can play doubles with," she said.
"It is great fun, he always makes jokes and makes me laugh and it is very relaxing."
Serbia's main obstacle may again be the United States, represented by Venus Williams, now ranked 24th in the world but a seven-time Grand Slam champion, and John Isner, ranked 14th.
The pair are the tournament's second seeds and although Williams is making her Hopman debut, Isner will be playing the tournament for the third time and won the title with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2011.
Third seeds are the Italian pairing of Andreas Seppi and Francesca Schiavone, while France will be represented by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mathilde Johansson, who are regarded as tournament outsiders and seeded seventh.
The tournament starts gets under way with Germany's Andrea Petkovic and Tommy Haas taking on the host nation pairing of Bernard Tomic and Ashleigh Barty, while Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues face South Africa's Kevin Anderson and Chanelle Scheepers.
With Perth in the grip of a heatwave, tournament organisers are keeping their options open with regards to closing the roof of the Perth Arena.
Temperatures of 42 Celsius and 41 Celsius are forecast for the first two days of the event, and the roof will be shut if they reach those highs.