Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Slovakia, Argentina about to face off

PRO TENNIS TOUR Argentina qualified for the final Thursday when Germany's Tommy Haas retired hurt from his singles match and Germany later defaulted what would have been the deciding doubles match

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Silvia Farina Elia of Italy plays a backhand return to Australian Samantha Stosur during their semifinal match at at the Royal Pines, Gold Coast, Australia on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

Daniela Hantuchova beat Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-2 Friday and Dominik Hrbaty won his match when Peter Wessels retired hurt, allowing Slovakia to advance to the Hopman Cup team tennis final.

Slovakia, which won the Hopman Cup in 1998, will face Argentina in today's final.

Haas on Friday pulled out of next week's Sydney International, hoping that the rest will enable him to play in the Australian Open beginning Jan. 17.

Hrbaty led the first set 5-2, and was leading 40-15 in the eight game when Wessels, who had injured a chest muscle earlier in the tournament, had to retire. The walkover in the mixed doubles left Slovakia with a 3-0 win over the Netherlands.

In the other match Friday, the defending champion US beat Australia 2-1.

Alicia Molik opened with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Meghann Shaughnessy before James Blake tied it with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Paul Baccanello. The Americans clinched the match with a 6-7 (6), 7-5, 10-7 (super tiebreaker) win in mixed doubles.

Baccanello was a replacement for Mark Philippoussis, whose groin injury forced him out of the tournament on Thursday. Australia was not eligible to advance to the final because of the injury replacement.

The US and Slovakia each finished with 2-1 records, but Slovakia beat the Americans on Thursday and had a better winning percentage of sets played.

Slovakia lost the final last year to the US. The Slovaks advanced to the 2004 final when Molik had to withdraw from the Australian team with a foot injury.

"This time it is so much different," Hantuchova said Friday. "I feel like this time the final is really deserved from my side.

"I helped Dominik to get there, I think we played well in all our singles matches and it's just nice to be in the final again."

Hantuchova will face Gisela Dulko of Argentina in the final Saturday, the first time the two have met. Hrbaty will then meet French Open finalist Guillermo Coria ahead of the mixed doubles.

Dulko has lost all three of her singles matches at this year's event, including straight-set losses to Russia's Anastasia Myskina and Italian Francesca Schiavone.

But she narrowly lost a three-set match against Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld and feels her confidence is good ahead of the final.

"I played really good in the first set [against Groenefeld] and then I lost a bit of confidence in the second and third sets," Dulko said.

Hrbaty and Coria have met four times, with each player having won twice.

"I like his game because it's not that fast," Hrbaty said. "He doesn't hit as many winners, he's not a big server, so I think there's going to be a lot of rallies which I enjoy."

Sweden's Joachim Johansson beat countryman Thomas Enqvist 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Australian men's hardcourt tennis championships.

Johansson will face Olivier Rochus of Belgium, who beat third-seeded Nicolas Kiefer of Germany 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 7-5 in another quarterfinal Friday at Memorial Drive.

Fourth-seeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina defeated Austrian Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-2 and will face the winner of Friday's later quarterfinal between top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt and American Taylor Dent.

Johansson took a 4-1 lead in the deciding set and broke Enqvist in the next game before finishing off the match with ace.

"I felt like I was striking the ball much better," Johansson said. "I broke him four times and he only broke me once. I felt that was the key to get up in the set early."

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