On second day of the Hopman Cup at Perth, Team USA defeated Italy by winning all their matches, although their 3-0 victory cannot be termed easy. In the other match played at night, Great Britain had a fighting encounter with the defending champions France, where Andy Murray needed to dig out all his reserves, especially in the mixed doubles match before Britain could elicit a 2-1 win. The French team this year has a bit of handicap as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not playing and his place has been taken by Benoit Paire. Regardless, Alize Cornet is still confident that her country would repeat their last year’s performance.
In the first rubber on Tuesday between USA and Italy, Serena Williams ran against Flavia Pennetta. The Italian woman looked in great form in the first set and had Serena eating out of her hands as the 6-0 score would suggest. The world no.1 looked too sluggish and her shot-making was pedestrian. After the first set white-wash, Serena ordered for the espresso coffee on court. Whether it was coffee or Serena’s new found game, she appeared a different player in the second set and leveled the set scores 1-1 after beating Pennetta 6-3. In the decider, it was exactly the reverse of the first set as Serena didn’t allow Pennetta any foothold, as the match was decided in Serena’s favor 0-6, 6-3, 6-0. But the wayward start for Serena was peppered with 38 unforced errors, which she later balanced by 5 aces and 31 winners.
In the second men’s singles match, John Isner sealed the victory for USA by defeating Fabio Fognini 7-5, 5-7, 7-6. It was a very close-fought match between two competitors of nearly equal tennis skills. Even their ATP rankings are side by side; Isner is world no.18 and Fognini 19. The match was a fluctuation of fortunes after Isner won the first set 7-5. Fognini fought back to take the second set 7-5 and leveled set scores to 1-1. Isner and Fognini fought for 2 hours 27 minutes before the big serving American prevailed in the match. Isner served 18 aces and came up with 47 winners. On the way, he committed just one double fault.
In the second rubber of the day, Andy Murray was the true star for Great Britain as he dished out fine performances in the two matches that he played. Murray reconciled to the reality of his partner’s limitations and pushed himself in the match against the defending champions France. In the first men’s singles match, the double Grand Slam champion remained composed against Frenchman Benoit Paire, who is ranked 126 in the world. Great Britain were lucky as last year’s winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga abstained from the Hopman Cup. But Murray didn’t have an easy victory regardless. The match lasted for an hour and 17 minutes as Paire put up a brave show in the second set after losing the first 2-6 against the Briton. Both players had to endure hot weather conditions with the mercury rising to 40+0 Celsius. Since the Australian Open may also see the summer heat, it was a good acclimatization for the participants at Hopman Cup. After Murray completed the 6-2, 7-5 victory over Paire with 6 aces and 16 winners, it was the turn of the women to play the singles match. It was an easy 6-2, 6-2 victory for Frenchwoman Alize Cornet against Heather Watson. But Cornet badly wants to defend the title, her team won last year. After the men’s and women’s singles matches were squared the score to 1-1, everything depended in the mixed doubles match. After Britain took the first set 6-4, Cornet and Paire played with renewed resolve and easily beat the Brits in the second set 6-2. In the third set tie-break, Murray’s companion Heather Watson played a fighting game and despite stiff resistance from France, the match went in Britain’s favor 6-4, 2-6, 10-8 (Tie-Break) after an hour and 21 minutes.
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