Photo: Theron Kirkman / Professional SportFernando Verdasco (ESP)
Spain are the first team through to this year’s Hyundai Hopman Cup final after John Isner was forced to withdraw from the competition due to a knee injury. 16-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, in Perth as a hitting partner, stepped in to play and provide some entertainment for the crowd, but as he is Australian, Spain were awarded a 3-0 victory.
Kokkinakis, ranked No. 756 in the world, was up first for USA against Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, once ranked No. 7 in the world and three-time Davis Cup champion. The young Australian battled bravely but was unable to prevent a Verdasco victory, with the Spaniard winning 76(4) 63.
After the match, Verdasco was full of praise for his opponent, “As soon as he gets stronger, that is normal because he’s only 16 years old and then he get like fitter and he start to move better and longer rallies and all that, he’s going to be for sure a great player.”
The next match saw Venus Williams take on Anabel Medina Garrigues. Neither of these two women had lost in the competition, but it was Williams who prevailed in this match, winning 63 64. It was Medina Garrigues who started the stronger of the two, however, breaking Williams’ serve in the first game of the match and holding her own for a 2-0 lead. Venus had often started matches slowly and this appeared to be no exception.
The American showed why she is a seven-time Grand Slam champion and fought back, before breaking late on in the set and serving it out. Medina Garrigues fought back in the second set but ultimately, the Spaniard had no answer to Venus’ superior serving and Williams won in straight sets.
This meant that the match was level after the singles and so the doubles would decide the winner. This was another moment for Thanasi Kokkinakis to cherish as he teamed up with Venus Williams. They were no match for the Spanish pair though and Verdasco and Medina Garrigues won 61 63.
Spain won the matches played 2-1 but they were able to play without any pressure as they had already been given a 3-0 victory. That win means that they are the first team into this year’s final.
Australians keep final hopes alive
The young Australian team of Bernard Tomic and Ashleigh Barty kept their hopes of reaching this year’s Hyundai Hopman Cup final alive by winning both singles matches against third seeds Italy.
Tomic, who had already defeated Tommy Haas and Novak Djokovic in this year’s competition, was facing Andreas Seppi in the first match of the day. The Australian saved three break points in the opening game of the match but after that was rarely troubled by Seppi and went on to win 63 75. Seppi has now lost all three of his singles matches in this year’s competition.
Ashleigh Barty showed signs of promise against Ana Ivanovic and in the doubles against Serbia, and people were hoping to see more of the same from her again as she took on former world No. 4 and French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. No one, however, would have predicted that Barty would win 60 63.
Barty is only in the competition due to a foot injury which forced Casey Dellacqua to pull out before the start of the tournament. Schiavone served up double faults on crucial points to hand Barty breaks but the 16-year-old Australian, who has been handed a wildcard into the Australian Open, had played incredibly well to build the pressure that forced Schiavone into those errors.
“I think this win trumps everything. The feeling I have right now – the adrenaline is just pumping through my veins,” Barty said after the match. She went on to say that it was a bigger win than her Junior Wimbledon triumph in 2011.
Her win gave Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead with just the doubles to play, but the Italians were determined not to suffer a whitewash. However, a 3-0 defeat seemed to be on the cards as the young Australians took the first set 6-2. The Italians fought back, however, and took the second set 6-4, forcing the super tiebreak. Seppi and Schiavone stormed into an 8-2 lead and held their nerve to win the super tiebreak 10-6.
The 2-1 win means that Australia still have a chance of qualifying for the final. There is one more game in the group which sees Serbia take on Germany. Should Germany pull off an unlikely upset, then Tomic and Barty will be playing against Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain in the final. Should Serbia win, however, then they will advance to the final to meet the Spanish duo.