Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Venus Williams leads US over France at Hopman Cup

AFP and reuters, PERTH, Australia

Venus Williams lifted the US to victory in their Hopman Cup tie against France on Tuesday.

The US pairing of Williams and John Isner beat the French team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mathilde Johansson 2-1 to remain unbeaten in the mixed teams tournament, but only after a remarkable comeback led by Williams when the Americans twice appeared on the brink of defeat.

After Tsonga beat an out-of-form Isner in straight sets, Williams looked down and out when she dropped the first set to Johannson and trailed 4-1 in the second.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion was all at sea against the 87th-ranked Johansson, appearing restricted in her movement and lacking the usual power in her game.

However, just when the cause looked lost, the world No. 24 climbed off the canvas to win in three sets, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Johansson was breaking the Williams serve almost at will for most of the first two sets, but the American found her service range just in the nick of time and turned the match on its head.

The Americans then claimed the tie with a come-from-behind 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 10-8 win in a match tiebreak in the deciding mixed doubles, where Williams again lifted them to victory as Isner continued to struggle with his game.

The eighth-ranked Tsonga made a perfect start to the new year by demolishing world No. 14 Isner in under an hour, 6-3, 6-2.

Tsonga easily blunted the power serving of the lanky American to win in just 55 minutes.

In another game, Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone showed her fighting qualities as Italy beat Germany 2-1 yesterday.

Needing to win her singles match to keep Italy alive in the tie and the mixed-teams tournament, the world No. 35 was a set and a break down, while battling stomach pain, against little-known German Tatjana Malek.

However, she rallied determinedly to win in three sets.

Malek arrived from Miami to replace the injured Andrea Petkovic in the tournament less than 12 hours before her match.

The German recovered from a shaky start to stun her more fancied opponent in the first set.

Things were going to script when Schiavone won the first three games of the match, but the 112th-ranked Malek won the next eight games in succession as the veteran made a string of uncharacteristic, and often inexplicable, errors.

Schiavone’s woes were summed up by the simple forehand error that handed the German the first set.

Just when an upset loomed, the 32-year-old Schiavone was able to claw her way back into the match as fatigue appeared to start affecting Malek.

Although she was well down on her best form, Schiavone was able to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Schiavone and teammate Andreas Seppi then clinched the tie with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Tommy Haas and Malek in the mixed doubles.

Haas had given the Germans the lead in the tie with a hard-fought straight-sets win over Seppi, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7).

Seppi served for the first set and had three set points in the second, but it was the German who won the crucial points to take the match.

Haas’ determined hustle paid off on match point, when his dogged defensive work opened up the opportunity for the forehand winner that sealed the win.

Earlier, Haas had given Germany a 1-0 lead by beating Seppi 7-6, 7-6.

Later yesterday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic suffered a shock loss to Australian Bernard Tomic, two weeks before the defense of his Australian Open title.

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