French tennis team still in Hopman hunt

France kept their Hopman Cup hopes mathematically alive with a 2-1 win over Great Britain in the mixed teams tournament.

Updated: Jan 06, 2011, 09:56 AM IST

Perth: France kept their Hopman Cup hopes mathematically alive with a 2-1 win over Great Britain in the mixed teams tournament.

But the fate of the French pairing of Kristina Mladenovic and Nicolas Mahut is not entirely in their own hands.

To reach the final they need record a clean sweep over Italy in their final round robin tie on Friday, and hope that the British team of Laura Robson and Andy Murray, who are out of contention, can upset the unbeaten United States by the same scoreline.

France have never made the Hopman Cup final in 16 previous appearances.

If the United States, the most successful nation in the tournament`s history with five titles, can win just one rubber on Friday they will play in Saturday`s final.

In the women`s singles in the France-Great Britain tie, Mladenovic won the battle of the teenagers against Robson to give her side the lead.

Mladenovic, 17 and a former world junior number one, beat the 16-year-old Robson in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.

Robson looked to have momentum when she took the second set, but again appeared to tire as her French opponent, who had been warned for taking too long between points during the second set, dominated the last set.

Mladenovic, who had played Robson several times in juniors, explained she was struggling with the heat and humidity inside the Burswood Dome.
"The umpire wanted me to go faster because I took a long time between points, but I needed to take my towel," said Mladenovic.

"It`s very warm here at the Dome. I need actually to change my dress, it`s so wet."

Andy Murray then levelled the tie with a hard-fought 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5) win over Nicolas Mahut in the men`s singles.

Mahut was up a break in both sets, but the world number four showed his class by raising his game when it mattered.

But the Frenchman then overcame an ankle injury to lead his side to victory in the deciding mixed doubles.

Mahut`s night looked over when he rolled his ankle in only the second game of the mixed doubles and needed immediate medical attention, but after some heavy strapping he returned and later said retiring hurt had not been an option.

"We`re playing for France, we`re playing for the country," he said. "You just try to keep going. Now we have to try to beat Italy."

Earlier, the US pairing of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and John Isner edged closer to the final with a hard-earned 2-1 win over Italy.

Although the Americans won both singles matches to secure the tie before the mixed doubles, Mattek-Sands and Isner were both stretched by Francesca Schiavone and Potito Starace.

Mattek-Sands held off a late rally from last year`s French Open champion in an upset result, winning 6-4, 6-4.
The 58th-ranked Mattek-Sands said her plan to deny Schiavone control of the game from the net worked.

"That was my goal going into this match, to get to the net before she did," she said.

"She`s an aggressive player and I was just trying to take her high balls early and not get myself behind the baseline too far."

Isner, ranked 19th, had his hands full with the 47th-ranked Starace, before eventually winning 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4.

Starace was within reach of an upset when he broke the towering Isner`s serve in the third set to lead 3-1, but the American broke straight back and then achieved a break of his own in the seventh game, eventually sealing the win with a trademark ace.

Isner said a place in the final beckoned for the Americans.

"We`re in the driver`s seat right now," he said.

The Italians kept their hopes of reaching the final alive by winning the dead mixed doubles rubber, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 7-6 (10/3) in a match tiebreak.

Bureau Report