Perth: The United States lost to Denmark 2-1 at the Hopman Cup on Monday, with late-arriving Caroline Wozniacki and Frederik Nielsen beating Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Mardy Fish 7-5, 6-3 in the deciding mixed doubles match.
Fish gave the U.S. an opening victory in this Australian Open tuneup, defeating Nielsen 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4. The top-ranked Wozniacki made it to the tournament only four hours earlier on a flight from Thailand. She beat Mattek-Sands 7-6 (4), 6-2 to tie the best-of-three series before the Danish pair combined to win mixed doubles.
Women`s singles are usually played first under the tournament format. Officials delayed that match to allow Wozniacki more time to practice on the hard courts.
In another Group A series, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych won singles matches to send the Czech Republic past Bulgaria 2-1.
On Tuesday in Group B, Spain will attempt to win its second straight match when it plays China (0-1). France (1-0) will try to keep host Australia winless when they play at night. The teams with the best group records play in Saturday`s final.
Wozniacki went straight from the airport to the arena and it showed early — she trailed 3-0 and 5-1 in the opening set.
"It`s the first time I`ve done that, and I felt a bit nervous," Wozniacki said. "I just started off playing too short and Bethanie just went for shots, made a lot of winners and it was tough for me to get into the points. But I just kept focusing. I didn`t even know it was 5-1 so I kept going and hoped for the best."
Fish broke Neilsen when the Daner was serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set to force the tiebreaker.
"The first one of the year is never pretty," Fish said. "I feel like I haven`t had much time off. ... It feels like only a couple of weeks ago I was in London at the tour finals. I am working on a lot of things on the mental side of things to improve myself, and during the match today, I was thinking about that and maybe a little less on the match."
Fish is coming off his best year, moving into the top 10 for the first time in May 2010, winning a tournament and playing consistently well. He is ranked No. 8 and attributes his improvement in part to a loss of 30 pounds.
"It`s been the discipline of losing that weight and really getting into as good a shape as I can," Fish said. "When I lay my head on the pillow every night, I know I make the right choices, I put in the time."
In the Czech Republic-Bulgaria matches, Kvitova won the last five games of her match to beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-2 before seventh-ranked Berdych defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3.
Pironkova and Dimitrov won the mixed doubles, saving three match points to defeat the Czech pair 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 in a result that could help determine Group A placings and decide which teams advance to Saturday`s final.
Kvitova, ranked No. 2, won five other tournaments in 2011 in addition to Wimbledon and helped the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title. She was also honored as the WTA Tour player of the year.
"Of course, the first match was tough and I won it," she said. "The last season was longer than normal and I had some rest. Hopefully I am ready to play matches — we will see how it goes."