Aussies go down in marathon tie
Australia’s quest for a second Hopman Cup title will have to wait another year after its finals aspirations were dashed in a marathon 2-1 loss to the Slovak Republic on Tuesday night.
Lleyton Hewitt continued his winning ways with a 7-6(4) 6-7(1) 6-4 triumph over Dominik Hrbaty but Casey Dellacqua lost her second match in as many days when world No.19 Dominika Cibulkova cruised to a 7-5 6-2 win in 84 minutes.
Australia, who lost to Germany 2-1 on Monday, needed to defeat the Slovak Republic in the mixed doubles to win the tie and stay in the hunt for Friday’s final.
But a weary Hewitt and a luckless Dellacqua couldn’t muster the win, with Hrbaty and Cibulkova running out 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6 [10-4] winners in a match that didn’t finish until 1.35 am local time (0330AEDT) on Wednesday morning.
Slovak Republic, who beat the top-seeded US on Monday, can guarantee a spot in Friday’s final if they can defeat Germany in its final group A encounter.
In the 21-year history of the Hopman Cup Australia has only snared the title once – in 1999 when Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic beat Swedish pair Jonas Bjorkman and Asa Carlsson
After taking two hours and 42 minutes to dispose of German Nicolas Kiefer on Monday, Hewitt, playing just his second singles match since undergoing career-saving surgery on his hip last year, needed almost three hours to defeat Hrbaty.
But it could have been a far easier night for the former world No.1 had he converted his serve when he led 5-3 in the second set.
Hrbaty broke back and dominated the tiebreak to send it into a third set, where Hewitt got the decisive break in the ninth game to set up the win.
“This is what you need going into the Australian Open,” Hewitt said after his tough win over Hrbaty.
“I had the chance to close it out in the second set there but Dominik is a hell of a fighter as well.
“We’ve had some really tough matches in the past and when he’s down he normally plays his best tennis.
“That was exactly what he did out there tonight, when he was 5-2 down in the second set he played his best tennis to get out of that second set and it turned into a real dogfight in the end.
“This is obviously what tests it [my hip] and being able to back up day after day.”
Dellacqua served for the opening set at 5-4 up but was unable to capitalise.
The 23 year old dropped five straight service games from that point as Cibulkova took control.
Cibulkova, who defeated American Meghann Shaughnessy the day before, showed no mercy against her error-riddled opponent and successfully challenged a call on match point to secure the win.
Earlier on Tuesday, Italy defeated France 2-1 in the group B tie.
Alize Cornet disposed of Flavia Pennetta 7-5 6-2 but Simone Bolelli kept Italy in the tie when he upset world No.6 Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3 6-3.
Bolelli then combined with Pennetta to win the mixed doubles 6-4 7-6(2).