Perth: Spain eased past hosts Australia to book their place in the final of the Hopman Cup on Thursday following emphatic singles victories by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Tommy Robredo.
Martinez Sanchez trounced Sam Stosur 6-4 6-1 before Robredo outplayed Lleyton Hewitt 6-2 6-4 as Spain finished top of Group A with a perfect record of three wins out of three.
Spain, winners of the mixed team event in 1990 and 2002, will take on the winners of the other round-robin group. With one match remaining apiece, Britain lead the race in Group B although Russia and Kazakhstan remain in contention.
Australia had to win every set to reach the final but their slim hopes were dashed almost immediately when Martinez Sanchez won the first set against Stosur.
The left-handed Spaniard, ranked a career-high 26, produced a clever mix of touch shots and angles and Stosur’s only glimmer of hope came when she held a break point to get back on level terms when trailing 5-4 in the opener.
However, Martinez Sanchez saw out the set and then cruised through the second against a deflated Stosur to seal Spain’s place in another Hopman Cup final.
“It’s not easy to play like this at the beginning of the season but I think I did (so) much work in the off-season, I suffered, so now I have my game,” Martinez Sanchez told reporters.
“I think this tournament is perfect preparation for me for the Australian Open.”
Hewitt struggled badly on serve at the start of his match with Robredo and the Spaniard eased through the first set.
Former world number one Hewitt, who had surgery on his right hip in 2008 but who has climbed back to a ranking of 22, had treatment on his lower back at the end of the first set.
His movement did not seem impaired but Robredo maintained his concentration, breaking in the ninth game of the second set and serving out with ease to clinch victory ahead of the mixed doubles encounter.
In Thursday’s other Group A match, American Melanie Oudin beat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3, but an injury to Victor Hanescu meant the rest of the tie was cancelled with the US awarded a 3-0 victory.