Debutant Romania shock Australia in Hopman Cup

Saturday, January 2, 2010

PERTH - Debutant Romania rolled top seed Australia in a 2-1 opening day shock to start with an upset victory at the eight-nation Hopman Cup mixed teams event Saturday.

The first-time mixed doubles pairing of Sorana Cirstea and Victor Hanescu stunned the favourites Samantha Stosur, winner of two women’s Grand Slam doubles crowns, and Lleyton Hewitt, 7-5, 6-1 to seal the surprise in the concluding rubber.

“Today was a perfect day,” said the 19-year-old Cirstea, who began by beating Stosur in singles 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 after losing two previous matches against the Australian without winning a set.

“I started with a good singles match and played well in mixed with Victor for first time in my life.”

Hewitt had given the host nation comeback chances as he levelled the afternoon scoreline at the Burswood Dome in front of 7,000 at one win apiece through a fighting 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) defeat of Hanescu.

But a team performance highlighted by 30 winners and six breaks of serve sent Australia onto the scrapheap at home as the mixed doubles rubber turned sour.

“I couldn’t find my best in the mixed,” said world number 13 Stosur, a French Open singles semi-finalist last season. “But it was good experience and I hope I can play better the next time (Tuesday against the US in the round-robin event).”

Hewitt returned to tennis after a break of two-and-a-half months as he won his singles with a typically scrappy performance.

The 28-year-old former number one, now ranked 22nd, put on his hero performance as he began his fifth appearance at the competition.

Hewitt last played in mid-October in Shanghai.

“I was up for the challenge today in singles, but I haven’t played a lot of doubles. They played too well for us.

“They played smart tennis and served better than we did.”

Hanescu ignored problems in his left leg and right hip from the singles, looking the picture of health in the mixed.

“I’m very tired, it’s hot and humid here and I’m coming from a while Christmas. I’m very happy the way I played. We did really well in the mixed.”

Hewitt is still counting on a comeback season in 2010 as he bids to return to the ATP elite. “I’m looking for top 10 at some stage this year,” said the 28-year-old. “But this month, the Australian Open is the main goal obviously.”

Australia is looking for a first title since Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic claimed the only home honours in 1999.

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