Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Australians unable to hold off US

THIRD-TIME LUCKY The US had played and lost two previous finals at the Hopman Cup in Australia, but Venus Williams and James Blake proved ``too good'' this time for Aussies Lleyton Hewitt and Alicia Molik


Venus Williams and James Blake combined for a second trophy for the US at the Hopman Cup with defeats of Australians Alicia Molik and Lleyton Hewitt in yesterday's title match.

The Americans denied the hosts a second title after 15 years of the eight-nation event, leaving the Aussies with only the 1999 crown through Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Molik to remember.

Williams and Hewitt, the world number one players, showed contrasting form on the day, with Williams rolling over world No. 94 Molik as expected, taking a 6-2, 6-3 victory to give their nation the first point.

One more good result from Blake -- a loser to Hewitt in all four previous matches -- was all it took for the visitors thanks to a 6-3, 6-4 upset of Hewitt.

The win gave the Americans some relief after their teams had played and lost the previous two finals at the Burswood Dome.

Williams, who will not play a tournament next week while preparing for a run at the Australian Open, said her first-ever week in Perth was worth it.

"I'm definitely happier with my game, I'm serving a lot better. But I'm insatiable, my game is never where I want it to be."

The American overwhelmed Molik in a 23-minute first set, winning three games with aces and finishing the set with another trio of untouchable serves.

Molik could do little in the second, save waiting for the inevitable victory by Williams. The Australian dropped serve in the fifth game and was broken to end it.

With no match play scheduled for next week in the Australian Open run-up, Williams is relatively pleased with the state of her game.

"I've gotten a little bit better with each match. I'm glad I came over early. I was happy to have a couple of matches, that makes a difference. I'll try to work on a few technical things next week," she said after notching seven aces, winning 95 percent of first serve points, claiming four of five break point chances and producing 18 winners.

Hewitt lost back-to-back matches for the first time since last spring and will now turns his attentions to his Australian Open preparation, where he went out in the first round a year ago after suffering with chicken pox.

Blake, who won the first set in 33 minutes with a break of serve and swept through the second after taking a 4-0 lead, still rates Hewitt as the target-man for the Grand Slam.

"He'll have the crowd support, he'll also have to deal with the pressure of becoming the first Australian to try and win after so many years [Mark Edmondson, 1976].

"But he's he's been in tough Grand Slam situations before -- he'll still be the favorite.

"This is the first time that I've taken out a reigning No. 1. It feels pretty good. He didn't have his best form -- but my kids and grandkids won't be hearing that."

Molik got the nod as a competitor who had shown special skill during the week. "Alicia played incredible tennis all week," Hewitt said.

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