Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 20 News List

India upset Czech Republic in Perth

BANANA BOY Rohan Bopanna was trounced in his singles match but after eating a banana, he teamed up with Sania Mirza to win the deciding mixed doubles

AFP , PERTH, AUSTRALIA

Sania Mirza, left, and Rohan Bopanna of India celebrate after winning their doubles match against Czech Republic players Lucie Safarova and Tomas Berdych at the Hopman Cup in Perth yesterday. Mirza and Bopanna won 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (10-5).

PHOTO: AFP

Hopman Cup debutants India shocked the Czech Republic as the upsets continued at the mixed teams event in Perth, Australia, yesterday.

The Czech pairing of Lucie Safarova and Tomas Berdych are seeded third here but, much like top seed Russia and defending champions the US did on the opening day of the tournament, suffered a shock loss.

The Indian duo of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna won the Group B tie 2-1, clinching victory in the mixed doubles in a final-set tiebreaker.

With millions back home watching the tie, the Indians beat the Czechs 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (10-5) in their first Hopman Cup appearance.

Mirza had given the Indians the lead in the tie with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 win over Safarova in the women's singles rubber.

Berdych then levelled the tie with a routine 6-2, 6-2 victory over an outmatched Bopanna.

After being thrashed in the singles, Bopanna lifted his game in the mixed doubles and looked a far more assured player, while Mirza continued to hit the ball well.

The Indians squandered a break in the second set, but dominated the tiebreaker to secure a well-deserved win.

"I'm glad as underdogs we could win today," Mirza said. "Rohan played unbelievable in the mixed -- he was flying all over the court, and I didn't have to do much."

Bopanna, whose form reversal was jokingly attributed by Mirza to the banana he ate between matches, said he was pleased he was able to redeem himself after his singles defeat.

"Sania played unbelievable in the singles and got us 1-0 ahead," he said. "I didn't spend much energy in the singles, so I thought I could use that for the mixed."

"Cricket is so big in India, but with this going live into India, it is really good for us and there is lots of interest back home," he said.

Mirza, a huge star in her home country and the first Indian woman to reach the top 50, looked sharp in disposing of the higher-ranked Safarova in the women's singles.

Although Safarova's ranking of 42 is 24 places higher than Mirza's at 66, the Indian remained in control throughout the match.

Mirza, whose highest career ranking was 31, had few problems cracking the Safarova serve as she cruised to victory in just 54 minutes.

Safarova won just 37 percent of her points on the first serve and she had no answer for the punishing groundstrokes of Mirza, who hit 18 winners.

The 21-year-old Indian said she was in good form after collecting a silver medal in the singles at the Asian Games and was confident of doing well in the upcoming Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.

"I was striking the ball well and hit the right shots at the right time," she said.

"My confidence levels are pretty high and this tournament is going to help me get better for the Australian Open," Mirza said.

India earned their place in the tournament with victory in the Asian Hopman Cup and Mirza said she was thrilled to be representing her country in its first appearance here.

"It is a great honor to represent my country and to be here," she said. "We want it very badly and the country is very excited."

In the men's singles, the promising Berdych thrashed a nervous Bopanna.

The Indian is ranked 277th while Berdych is 13th, and Bopanna simply did not have the game to push the Czech, despite serving more aces.

Berdych hit 18 winners to Bopanna's six as he strolled to victory in just 45 minutes.

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