hopman cupIt turned out to be a fantastic Friday at Perth, where Poland not only avenged their 2014 defeat against France in the championship match but powered their way into the final in 2015. The marathon Frenchwoman Alize Cornet had disappointment writ large all over her face, when her compatriot Benoit Paire lost his match to the 6’10” tall Jerzy Janowicz. Earlier Cornet had won her match by upsetting world no.5 Agnieszka Radwanska in a 2 hour 40 minute duel. Since Poland needed to win just one rubber, Jerzy Janowicz’s victory against Frenchman Benoit Paire settled the issue. Though France also won the mixed doubles, when the polish pair retired midway through the rubber but there was no cheer in that victory. Earlier on Thursday night, Serena Williams played her heart out to beat Czech woman Lucie Safarova in another marathon. That was followed by men’s singles victory of John Isner over Adam Pavlasek. The US pair then defeated the Czechs in the mixed doubles to complete the 3-0 rout and seal their place in the final. Anything less than a 3-0 victory would not have taken USA to the final. Now Saturday will see a Battle Royale, where four of world’s best players fight out for the top honors. Among them will be Serena Williams, who stands a chance to create Hopman Cup history as the only woman to figure among the winners for an unprecedented third time.

When USA came to the court arena in Perth on Thursday night, they knew the stakes. Serena and John Isner needed to win all their matches against the powerful Czech team of Lucie Safarova and Adam Pavlasek for the place in the final. 33-year old Serena has been part of the US team for years and she was in the US team, which won in 2003 and 2008. In Thursday’s first rubber, she faced Safarova, whose game is improving by the day. But Serena’s problem was getting acclimatized to the hot conditions in Perth, where she had already run into rough weather. In her first match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, she lost 0-6 in the first set, before finally managing to beat her. Again in USA’s match against Canada, Serena lost to Eugenie Bouchard. She felt that fatigue was curtailing her movements on the court. Therefore, her performance against Safarova was a crucial factor for team USA. When the match began, Serena willed herself and played strongly to take the first set 6-3. But the Czech girl showed her game in the second set to frustrate Serena. In the tie-break, Safarova did not allow Serena any foothold and easily won 7-1. Serena, who banged her racquet in exasperation in the second set tie-break, came back energized in the third set, which also went to tie-break. Serena didn’t have an easy passage as the tie-break looked like an endless battle. Finally, Serena had her chance to take win at 8-6 and finish the match 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. In the following men’s singles rubber, John Isner didn’t have any problem against Adam Pavlasek, despite the first set tie-break. Team USA made it 2-0 as Isner beat Pavlasek 7-6, 6-2. Now everything depended on the mixed doubles rubber. Spurred by the 2-0 lead, the Americans made short work of the Czech pair of Safarova/Pavlasek, easily beating them 6-3, 6-3 and sealing their place in the final.

Next day morning, it was literally the repeat of last year’s championship game between France and Poland. Both teams had been unbeaten in their league matches this year and the trial of strength began. Poland needed to win just one rubber to set up a clash with USA in Saturday’s final. On the other hand France needed to win the match 3-0. Alize Cornet began brilliantly as she wanted to keep France’s hopes of reaching the final alive. She came up with the performance of life time against Radwanska in her desire to honor the 12 countrymen killed in the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack on Wednesday. Cornet made superb exhibition of her fighting qualities and beat Agnieszka Radwanska in a marathon encounter that went on till eternity before the Frenchwoman clinched the match 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Her heady exhilaration was short-lived as Jerzy Janowicz then ensured that the Poles would play in the final for the second successive year. The imposing Pole didn’t have much trouble in beating the Frenchman Benoit Paire in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 but not before Paire saved four match points. This match brought heartbreak for France and Alize Cornet.  The Poles didn’t have to continue in the mixed doubles rubber since they had already made it to the final.