World No. 1 Novak Djokovic escaped serious injury in an incident with overzealous fans after helping Serbia beat Italy at the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, yesterday.
Djokovic, who only arrived in the city on Sunday evening after winning an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, was too good for Italian Andreas Seppi, defeating him 6-3, 6-4.
After the match, Djokovic made his way to sign autographs for youngsters at the side of the court, but as fans clamored to get the Serbian star’s attention, the barrier holding them back fell onto his legs.
Djokovic spent a few moments on his haunches before gingerly walking off the court and canceling his post-match press conference to get treatment.
However the 25-year-old showed no signs of discomfort when he returned to the court for mixed doubles a short time later and played down the incident.
“I am good,” he said. “It was a bit of a shock and I am glad that the children involved are okay. I am fine.”
Djokovic, aiming for a third straight Australian Open title in Melbourne next month, made it 10 wins from as many matches against Seppi, in their first meeting since the Serb came from two sets down to win at this year’s French Open.
Yesterday’s win secured the tie for Serbia with his teammate Ana Ivanovic, the top seeds for the eight-nation event and playing the event together for the third time.
The Italians won the dead mixed doubles rubber.
Ivanovic gave the Serbians the lead with a commanding straight sets win over fellow French Open winner Francesca Schiavone in the women’s singles.
In an impressive start to her new campaign, Ivanovic won 6-0, 6-4.
Having been in Australia for more than a week, Ivanovic showed she was in good shape for next year’s first Grand Slam by overpowering Schiavone.
Ivanovic went into the match with wins over the Italian in their only four previous meetings, and continued that dominance.
Schiavone held break points in the first game, but Ivanovic steadied and then won the first seven games of the match.
Her only hiccup came when she was broken while serving for the match at 5-3, but she immediately broke back to secure the win.
Ivanovic, ranked 13th in the world after a solid year, said she was trying to play more aggressively as she seeks to recapture the form that took her to world No. 1 earlier in her career.
“I felt like I played well,” the 2008 French Open champion said. “I feel I have a lot more on the ball and I am playing the way I used to play before, setting up the points and using my forehand. The things I worked on during the off-season are paying off.”
AFP, BRISBANE, Australia
Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur’s miserable Australian form continued yesterday when she was knocked out of the first round of the Brisbane International by Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson.
Arvidsson took full advantage of 48 unforced errors from the Australian No. 1 to win 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 on Pat Rafter Arena.
Stosur, who grew up on the nearby Gold Coast, has struggled to live up to expectations when playing in her home tournament and has not made it past the second round in four attempts.
She has also failed to make an impression at the Australian Open, last year losing in the first round to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea as sixth seed.
Stosur began confidently against Arvidsson, but fell away dramatically as her error rate climbed and despite fighting hard to stay in the match, she never seriously threatened the Swede.
Earlier, former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki lost valuable Australian Open match practice when she lost to Kazakhstan qualifier Ksenia Pervak.
In a titanic battle lasting 2 hours, 48 minutes, left-handed Pervak eased past Wozniacki 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) in the first shock of the season-opening WTA tournament.
Eighth-seeded Wozniacki had looked in control as she reeled off the first set in just 29 minutes.
However, the Russian-born Pervak found her range in the second set and had the Dane constantly under pressure with her swinging left-handed groundstrokes.
She won the set to level the match, then stunned Wozniacki in the deciding set with an all-out attack.
“I had a really tough match yesterday, we played for three hours and I was tired in the beginning, but then I got into the game [and] it was easy,” Pervak said. “I won a few games and I felt that I can do it and I started to fight more.”
Pervak said she knew she could not give the more experienced Wozniacki any cheap points in the tiebreak.
“I just told myself that I needed to be focused on every point and just play my game as aggressively as I could,” she said.
Wozniacki will play in Sydney next week in a last-ditch bid to find some form ahead of the Jan. 14-27 Australian Open in Melbourne.
It was 21-year-old Pervak’s first win over a top 10 player and the first time she has been past the first round in Brisbane in four attempts.
Fourth seed Angelique Kerber survived a tough three-setter against Georgia’s Anna Tatishvili, winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, while German compatriot Sabine Lisicki had a more straightforward 6-2, 6-4 win over Czech Lucie Safarova.
French Open runner-up and fifth seed Sara Errani thumped Russia’s Olga Puchkova 6-1, 6-3.
In the men’s draw, Japan’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori downed Australian No. 1 Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-2, sixth seed Florian Mayer beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-4 and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen outlasted Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Defending champion Zheng Jie crashed out in the first round of the ASB Classic women’s tennis tournament yesterday, falling to rising US star Jamie Hampton 7-5, 6-1.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova was also sent packing on the opening day, beaten in a three-set marathon by Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
Zheng, seeded fourth in the tournament that serves as a warm-up to next month’s Australian Open, raced to an early 3-0 lead in the opening set, before Hampton fought back to level at 5-5.
The German-born American, who has soared up the rankings from No. 137 to No. 70 over the past year, then broke Zheng in a love game before taking out the set with an ace in the following game.
The second set was all Hampton, as she used her strong cross-court forehand to dominate the more experienced Chinese in 1 hour, 20 minutes.
In blustery conditions, the 21-year-old Bertens fought back from a set down to beat former world No. 2 Kuznetsova 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 7-5.
Bertens, who rose in the rankings from No. 184 to No. 63 over the past year, grew in confidence despite serving 10 double faults in the strong wind.
After losing the opening set tie-break in the 2 hour, 33 minute marathon, she held her concentration against the 28-year-old Russian veteran, who is making a comeback after a first-round knee injury at Wimbledon ended her season.
American Christina McHale was the second ranked player dumped out on the opening day, with the seventh seed losing in straight sets to France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 6-1.
Tournament top seed Agnieszka Radwanska has her opening match today against 2011 winner Greta Arn, who had to rely on the luck of the draw to make the field.
Arn lost her final-round match in the qualifying tournament to Thai player Nudnida Laungnam, but her name was later drawn at random from among four players to replace Kristina Mladenovic, who was a late withdrawal from the Classic.
AP, SHENZHEN, China
Second-seeded Marion Bartoli of France sailed into the second round of the Shenzhen Open on Monday with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Hong Kong’s Chan Wingyau.
Bartoli will next play Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele, who beat Timea Babos of Hungary 6-4, 7-5.
Julia Cohen of US also advanced, recovering to beat 80th-ranked Nina Bratchikova of Russia 0-6, 7-6, 7-5.
In other first-round matches, fifth-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic defeated her countrywoman Andrea Hlavackova 6-1, 6-1 while No. 6 Peng Shuai of China beat Anne Keothavong of Britain 6-4, 6-0.
Eighth-seeded Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia also earned a second-round berth with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Alexandra Cadantu of Romania.
Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen beat Silvia Soler Espinosa of Spain 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, while Japan’s Ayumi Morita beat Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan 6-4, 6-4.
Additional reporting by Staff writer