Belgium too good for Kazakhstan in Hopman Cup

AFP AND AP, PERTH, AUSTRALIA

Wed, Jan 05, 2011 - Page 20

Former world No. 1 Justine Henin led Belgium to a 3-0 win over Kazakhstan in their Hopman Cup Group A tie at the Burswood Dome yesterday.

Henin made it two wins from as many singles matches here in her comeback from a career-threatening elbow injury with a straight sets win over Kazak substitute Sesil Karatantcheva, 6-4, 6-3.

World No.172 Ruben Bemelmans then stunned the 36th-ranked Andrey Golubev with a straight sets win, 6-4, 6-4, to secure the tie for the Belgians and keep them in the hunt for Saturday’s final.

The Belgians, who lost to Australia in the tournament opener on Saturday, completed a clean sweep by coming from a set down to defeat the Kazaks in the mixed doubles in a match tiebreak, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8.

With two losses from as many ties, Kazakhstan are already out of contention for the final.

Golubev is coming off a fine performance last year, but was well off his best form against Bemelmans, with the Belgian delighted to post the best win of his career.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic comfortably handled Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-4 as Serbia stayed unbeaten at the Hopman Cup with an unassailable 2-0 victory over Australia.

Ana Ivanovic produced another impressive performance to see off Alicia Molik 6-4, 6-0 and win the first point for Serbia despite suffering an injury scare in the second set when she appeared to overextend her left knee.

Serbia leads Group A with two wins from two and can reach Saturday’s final with a last round-robin win over Kazakhstan.

BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL

AFP, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

The women’s draw at the Brisbane International was thrown wide open yesterday after top seeds Samantha Stosur and Shahar Peer were bundled out in the second round by unheralded opponents.

World No. 6 Stosur was beaten by fellow Australian Jarmila Groth 6-2, 6-4 in the tournament’s biggest shock, while earlier in the day the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova outlasted second seed Peer 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

With third seed Nadia Petrova losing on Monday, Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli is now the highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

Stosur started slowly against Groth, quickly finding herself 4-0 down and unable to recover in time to save the first set.

Stosur opened far more confidently in the second and raced to a 4-1 lead, but Groth refused to concede and broke back to get the set back on serve.

Groth then broke Stosur in the ninth game and held easily to take the match in 78 minutes and claim her second win over Stosur in as many matches.

Safarova saved a match point in the third set before eventually claiming a tense 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over Peer in a two-and-a-half-hour match that never reached any great heights.

Safarova will play fifth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals following the Russian’s 6-2, 7-5 win over Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski 6-2, 7-5. Italy’s Roberta Vinci earlier completed the women’s first round when she beat American Christina McHale in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).

Meanwhile, in the men’s draw, Germany’s Benjamin Becker held his nerve to dump third-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco from the first round of the Brisbane International tennis tournament yesterday.

Becker demolished Verdasco in the first set and was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, only to falter and allow the Spaniard to break back.

Verdasco, the world No. 9, then leveled proceedings when he raced away with the tiebreak, but Becker regrouped and came out firing in the third, breaking Verdasco immediately and holding the advantage to win 6-1, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3.

Top seed Robin Soderling cruised through to the second round with an emphatic win over US qualifier Ryan Harrison.

Harrison had no answer to the Swede’s power and precision, the world No. 5 winning 6-2, 6-4 in 65 minutes despite arriving in Brisbane only late Sunday night.

The Czech Radek Stepanek, champion two years ago and -runner-up last year, came back from losing the first set to Germany’s Tobias Kamke to move into the second round with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

He takes on fourth-seeded American Mardy Fish, a 6-1, 6-4 victor over Adrian Mannarino.

Crowd favorite Marcos Baghdatis came back from losing the first set against Frenchman Florent Serra, the Cypriot fifth seed taking the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

South African Kevin Anderson was too good for Australian Peter Luczak, winning 6-4, 6-4 to book his second-round match against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, while Lithuanian qualifier Richard Berankis beat Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3.

AUCKLAND CLASSIC

REUTERS, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer began the defense of her Auckland Classic title with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 first-round victory over former world No. 1 Dinara Safina yesterday.

While the presence of grand slam title winners Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova has helped to effectively sell out the entire tournament, Wickmayer and Safina gave the capacity crowd the best value for money so far with a tough baseline battle filled with aggressive shot-making.

Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro, who avoided having to play top seed Sharapova on Monday after fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova withdrew with illness, took full advantage to advance to the second round with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over Italy’s Romina Oprandi.

Seventh-seed Elena Vesnina completed a Russian sweep over their New Zealand opponents when she followed up compatriot Kuznetsova’s victory over Sacha Jones on Monday with a clinical 6-2, 6-2 victory over local wildcard Marina Erakovic.