French pair Alize Cornet and Gilles Simon got off to a perfect start in their quest for their country’s maiden Hopman Cup win, with a clean sweep of Taiwan in their Group B tie yesterday.
The tournament’s third seeds, hoping to notch France’s first win in the 21-year history of the mixed teams tournament, were far too good for the Taiwanese, who had qualified for the tournament by winning the Asian Hopman Cup in November.
In 15 previous attempts, the closest France have come to winning the Hopman Cup was when Mary Pierce and Cedric Pioline were beaten in the 1998 final.
The teenage Cornet overcame tiredness to beat Hsieh Su-wei in the women’s singles in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, and give the French the early advantage.
Simon then secured the tie for the French duo with a workmanlike 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win over Lu Yen-hsun, before the French also claimed the mixed doubles 6-4, 7-6 (11-9).
The promising Cornet looked well short of the form that carried her to a career-high ranking of 16 at the end of last year as she struggled to dispatch Hsieh.
It took the 18-year-old 78 minutes to subdue her stubborn 81st-ranked opponent, who called for medical attention for a stiff neck on a couple of occasions, but broke the Frenchwoman’s serve twice in the second set.
However, Cornet explained after the match that she was still feeling the effects of a long flight to Perth after seeing in the New Year in Italy.
“At the beginning, I was really moving like a cow on the court,” Cornet said. “It was really tough today because I just arrived yesterday in Australia. I am not really in the time zone, because now it is three o’clock in the morning in France. Sometimes, I was completely out of breath and really tired. But I am happy to win and it was really important to make a good start.”
Likewise, the seventh-ranked Simon said he was feeling the heat during his singles match and felt fortunate to wrap it up in straight sets.
He seemed to be cruising when he was up a set and a break against the 64th-ranked Lu, but in the end conceded he was lucky to win the second set.
“I lost my concentration in the second set and he played better,” Simon said. “I was so tired and it was good for me that it was over in two sets.”
The bookmakers Hopman Cup favorites, France’s next tie is against Italian pair Flavia Pennetta and Simone Bolelli on Tuesday. Taiwan’s next tie is against Russia’s brother and sister pairing of Marat Safin and Dinara Safina on Wednesday.