Australia have landed in a devilish group alongside defending champions the USA and Great Britain for the season-opening United Cup mixed tennis teams’ event.
World No.13 Alex de Minaur, three-time major quarter-finalist Ajla Tomljanovic and company will kick-start their summer campaigns in Perth when the 18-nation competition starts on December 29.
John Millman, Matt Ebden, Storm Hunter and Ellen Perez complete the Australia team competing in Group A at Perth’s RAC Arena from December 29 until January 4.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic will also open his season in the WA capital after his Serbia team were drawn in Group E with the Czech Republic and China.
The top finishing team from each of the six groups, plus the best two runners-up, will advance to the quarter-finals, leaving Australia facing a tough time trying to progress.
World No.10 Taylor Fritz and women’s No.4 Jessica Pegula will again spearhead Team USA, who crushed Italy 4-0 in this year’s inaugural final in Sydney.
World No.18 Cam Norrie and rising star Katie Boulter lead Great Britain.
De Minaur has been dating Boulter for two years, raising the tantalising prospect of the pair going head to head in a deciding mixed doubles rubber.
“It could be the end of a beautiful relationship,” former Australia Davis Cup captain Wally Masur said at Monday’s draw in Sydney.
“It will be interesting how it plays out because Matty Ebden and Storm Hunter are there so we’ve got plenty of options for the mixed doubles.
“Alex might be in a situation where he plays three sets against Cam Norrie and maybe it’s not in his best interests to back up and play the mixed.
“But him playing Boulter would add a bit of spice.”
Group A, featuring the formidable top-seeded Polish outfit led by four-time grand slam winner Iga Swiatek and men’s world No.10 Hubert Hurkacz, Spain and a yet-to-be-determined third nation will also feature in Perth.
Sydney will also play host to nine teams, including fan favourites Greece in Group B with Canada and a yet-to-be-determined qualifying nation.
Greece will be led by 2023 Australian Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari, both long-time top-10 stars.
France, Italy and Germany make up an all-European Group D, with Group F – featuring Croatia, Norway and the Netherlands – also clashing in Sydney in Group F.
The semi-finals and final will be staged at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena on January 6-7.