France is on the verge of qualifying for the Hopman Cup final after being handed victory over the host nation in group A at the mixed teams event here on Tuesday.
Both teams were coming off wins in their opening round robin matches, but the Australian campaign came to a sudden halt when former world No.8 Mark Philippoussis was forced to retire from his singles clash with Frenchman Jerome Haehnel just five games into the first set.
Haehnel, who had defied his 213th ranking to upset Mardy Fish of the US in his first singles match in Perth, was leading 4-1 when Philippoussis, who appeared to hyperextend his right knee during the fourth game, retired in yet another setback for a career that has been marred by injuries.
Philippoussis immediately had to withdraw from the mixed doubles as well, handing the French a 3-0 win, with Tatiana Golovin having already defeated Alicia Molik in straight sets.
The French, a late inclusion for the tournament because of the withdrawal of Germany, also beat the US on Saturday and they only have to win today's clash with Russia to progress to tomorrow's final.
While there was plenty for the French to smile about, the injury has potentially severe ramifications for the big-serving Philippoussis, who has battled knee problems for much of his career and has undergone knee surgery three times.
Philippoussis, who is a dual Grand Slam singles finalist and is on the comeback trail after three years of poor results, was coming off an impressive win over world No. 22 Dmitry Tursunov on Saturday.
However, the 30-year-old cut a disconsolate figure and looked as if he was resigned to his fate as the knee was worked on during an injury timeout.
Although he returned to the court, he could barely move and his retirement from the match was inevitable.
It was the third time he had been struck down by injury in Perth -- shin splints curtailed his 2000 Hopman Cup and a groin injury forced him to withdraw in 2005.
Philippoussis had vowed to climb the rankings this year by following the example of US star Andre Agassi's career revival at a similar age.
To that end, he had been training in Las Vegas with Agassi's coach, fellow Australian Darren Cahill, and fitness advisor Gil Reyes.
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