Daniela Hantuchova and team-mate Dominik Hrbaty gave the Slovak Republic a Hopman Cup lifeline yesterday with victory over the US in the mixed-team tennis tournament.
The Slovaks swept aside the American pair of Meghann Shaughnessy and James Blake in their Group B singles matches to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the tie with the dead mixed doubles rubber still to be played.
Hantuchova had a see-saw first set against Shaughnessy which saw her break serve in the seventh game, lose it in the eighth then break back in the ninth before serving to love. She won 6-4, 6-2.
Hrbaty, ranked 14 in the world, was tested early before overcoming Blake 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
The Slovaks looked to be heading out of the tournament following their defeat to Australia earlier in the competition.
But the qualification picture was thrown wide open after an injury to Australian star Mark Philippoussis which has scuppered the hosts' chances of reaching the final.
Philippoussis suffered torn adductor muscles in his leg during a loss to the Netherlands' Peter Wessels on Wednesday, forcing him and team-mate Alicia Molik to forfeit the deciding mixed doubles rubber and with it the tie 2-1.
The injury is likely to rule Philippoussis out of the Australian Open which starts in Melbourne on Jan. 17.
With Australia out of the running, the Slovaks can still reach the final after their win against the US.
Similarly, the Netherlands, who only made the main eight-nation draw after beating Zimbabwe in a qualifying tie, could also reach the final after losing their opening match with the US.
Apart from Australia, only top-seeds Russia and unseeded Italy can no longer make the final which will see the top team from each of the two groups of four teams play off.
Champions Challenge, Hong Kong
Russian world number four Elena Dementieva defeated Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova with a come-from-behind 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-1 victory in the Watsons Water Champions Challenge in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Dementieva didn't let the loss of an opening set distract her as she won the all-Russian encounter in just under two hours with her brand of power tennis.
Sharapova offered few excuses for her surprise loss, but said she was distracted by several line-calls and a ball thrown by a fan during the first set.
The ball was thrown by a young man with Down's Syndrome just when she was about to serve.
Sharapova must defeat Czech Republic's Nicole Vaidisova today to stay in contention in the tour-nament, which is using a round-robin system with the winner of each group advancing to tomorrow's finals.
US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, had no problems in her singles match as she swept aside fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-3.
Roger Federer continued his unbeaten run since the Athens Olym-pics with another overwhelming performance and a win over former US Open finalist Greg Rus-edski which carried him to the quarterfinals of the US$1,000,000 Qatar Open on Wednesday.
Federer's 6-3,6-4 success looked for a while as though it might be more one-sided, because he won the first seven points, broke serve at once and raced to a 3-0 lead in less than ten minutes.
Rusedski now flies to Sydney to continue his preparations for the Australian Open starting the week after next, while Federer takes on another left-hander, Feliciano Lopez, the improving eighth-seeded Spaniard for a place in the last four here.