Photo: Tony McDonoughEugenie Bouchard (CAN)
Milos Raonic’s thunderous first deliveries found their range in Perth Arena on Saturday night, with 18 aces helping the Canadian hand his country a 1-0 lead over Australia in a 76(6) 61 victory over Bernard Tomic.
Eugenie Bouchard then gave the Canadians an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie, upsetting Sam Stosur 46 62 63 before the Australians salvaged some pride in front of their home crowd with a straight sets 62 64 win in the mixed doubles.
It was the perfect birthday present for the world No. 11 Raonic, who celebrated turning 23 on Friday, and marked a solid return after a lengthy off-season.
Raonic was under no illusions as to just how heavily his game relied on those monster serves.
“The more the match went on it got better and better and that’s key to me, obviously, no matter how much I improve everything else, that’s going to be my key weapon,” he said.
Despite the crowd eagerly willing her on, Stosur was unable to hold out a free-swinging Bouchard at 3-4 in the third, chipping a stretched backhand wide to surrender the break before overcooking consecutive forehands to give Bouchard the win.
"I was trying to be the aggressive one and step in and control the point and I think I overall kind of did that well," Bouchard said.
"When I did put pressure she’d sometimes make mistakes so I was just focusing on my game trying to be aggressive like that."
Earlier, Poland got off to the perfect start, albeit in unfortunate circumstances when Andreas Seppi retired with illness while trailing in his match.
World No. 5 Radwanska was made to work harder than the 62 62 scoreline suggested over former top-tenner Flavia Pennetta, adapting better than her fellow European opponent to the hot change in conditions, while 288th ranked Grzegorz Panfil – a replacement for the injured Jerzy Janowicz – started emphatically before Andreas Seppi retired sick while trailing 26 2-2.
In the opening women’s match of Hopman Cup XXVI, both players took a while to find their range, but it was Radwanska who put in the more measured performance, admitting she was keen to make the loose shots start to disappear by the week’s end.
With both players struggling on serve early in the second set, Radwanska held strong, saving a string of break points before closing with a double break of serve.
“I think especially in the second set a couple of the games were long and tight and a couple of points went my way,” she said.
“The first part of the first set was not great so I was really trying to you know be as smart as I can in the second set.”
For Panfil, it was an unfortunate way to win on his Hopman Cup debut when his 25th ranked opponent retired while down a set.
But it would not detract from the standard the left-handed Pole was producing, particularly on serve and off the forehand wing.
“I was serving really, really good. I’m really happy because last three weeks I was playing indoor, practising in Poland, so it was a big difference between indoor and outdoor here in Australia where it was a little bit windy and sunny,” Panfil said.
Session 1: Poland 3-0 Italy
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 62 62
Grzegorz Panfil (POL) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 64 2-2 ret. (illness)
Agnieszka Radwanska/Grzegorz Panfil (POL) d. Flavia Pennetta (ITA)/Oliver Anderson (AUS) 62 61
Session 2: Canada 2-1 Australia
Milos Raonic (CAN) d. Bernard Tomic (AUS) 76 61
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) d. Sam Stosur (AUS) 46 62 63
Sam Stosur/Bernard Tomic (AUS) d. Eugenie Bouchard/Milos Raonic (CAN) 62 64