Australia: Slovaks Shock USA in Hopman Cup

Zee News

Perth, Jan 06: Cagey veteran Dominik Hrbaty conjured an upset 3-0 win for the Slovak Republic over defending champions the United States in the mixed teams Hopman Cup.

The day after his 31st birthday, Hrbaty belied his lowly ranking to stun American James Blake, snatching an enthralling singles encounter in three sets to secure the Group A tie for the Slovaks against the top seeds.

Earlier, teenager Dominika Cibulkova had brushed aside Meghann Shaughnessy, a late inclusion for the injured Serena Williams and on the comeback trail after a major knee injury, in straight sets to give the Slovaks a 1-0 lead.

Ranked 250th in the world after elbow problems in recent years, Hrbaty took advantage of some reckless shots by the 10th-ranked Blake to snatch victory in a lopsided third set tie-break, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/1).

The pair, both previous Hopman Cup winners, traded powerful blows from the back of the court and produced some exhilarating rallies, but Blake was guilty of being too aggressive at times and racked up 62 unforced errors, to Hrbaty's 35.

The normally unflappable Blake grew frustrated as the match wore on, finding himself warned for an audible obscenity in the third set, and also arguing with the chair umpire over one point a short time later.

The American was also left pondering what might have been, as he had six break points in the ninth game of the third set, when a break would have had him serving for the match.

In the deciding tie-break, Hrbaty lifted his game to a new level to race to a 6-0 lead as he notched his first win in three matches against Blake.

 "That is my first big win after I came back from the injury," he said.

"I played really well today and played some beautiful tennis; I am ranked 240 places below James and I beat a top 10 player and it cannot be any better.”

"I get very excited when I play for my country, I think we have a good chance this week."

The 19-year-old Cibulkova had few problems with a struggling Shaughnessy, who looked very much like a player short on match practice after only playing a handful of tournaments last year, winning 6-2, 6-2.

In the dead mixed doubles rubber, the Slovaks made it a clean sweep by beating the Americans in straight sets.

Earlier on Monday, former world number one Lleyton Hewitt made a winning return from hip surgery, but couldn't prevent Australia's narrow 2-1 defeat to Germany in their Group A tie.

Hewitt was impressive in his 6-7, (6/8), 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Nicolas Kiefer but the German took his revenge with a thrilling match tie-break win in the decisive mixed doubles encounter 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 10-5.

"It was a great way to start the year. He is a really tough opponent, it was a matter of me hanging in there and weathering the storm, and in the end I was able to turn the match around," said Hewitt, 27, after the match.

Hewitt ended 2008 ranked 68th, the first time he had been outside the top 50 since 1998, and was playing for the first time since his operation after the Beijing Olympics in August.

The former US Open and Wimbledon champion, who has set himself the goal of climbing back into the top 10, appeared to be moving freely in his comeback match as he recovered from a set down against Kiefer.

However, he was upstaged by German teenager Sabine Lisicki, who came from a set down to beat hometown favourite Casey Dellacqua in the women's singles before helping Kiefer clinch the doubles.

The 19-year-old Lisicki reeled off the last three games of the singles match as Dellacqua dramatically imploded on her Hopman Cup debut, winning just one of the last 13 points after serving for the match in front of her home crowd.


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