US earn another Hopman win as France eliminate Britain

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

PERTH - The US maintained a perfect record at the Hopman Cup mixed team event, with John Isner clinching a 2-1 Group B victory over Italy Wednesday.

Andy Murray and Laura Robson lost any chance of repeating as finalists for Britain after going down 2-1 to France with Nicolas Mahut and Kristina Mladenovic clinching victory through late-night mixed doubles success, 6-4, 6-2.

Robson was edged by her French opponent Mladenovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 in the opening rubber, But Murray retaliated as he spent more than two hours in holding off Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5).

“I tried my best, we were playing for France,” said Mahut, who fell and had to have his ankle taped before carrying on in the singles. “I heard before I came to the court I had no chance to win against him - but I came very close.”

Robson, 16, was unable to prevail over the charged-up Mldenovic. “I’m very happy,” said the winner. “I had injuries last year and I’m pleased to play like this already. It’s a pleasure to be back on court, I fought to the end.”

“To play an opponent of your age is always difficult. I’m still trying to work on my game.”

Murray went down an early break in the opening game against Mahut, finally winning it back and earning the set in a tiebreaker after saving set points. The Scot ranked fourth in the world kept up his pressure in the second to prevail.

“It was an exciting match, a big contrast in styles between a serve-and-volleyer and me on the baseline,” said Murray. “There were a lot of rallies, it was fun. I love to play serve-and-volleyers. But I was lucky to come through today. I returned well on the big points.

“I got back into in in the second set and he did the same. There were lots of momentum changes, we hit some great shots.”

American Isner, the giant of the men’s game, came from behind in a win he called valuable for the future, beating Italy’s Potito Starace 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4. Teammate Bethanie Mattek-Sands stopped French Open winner Francesca Schiavone in a 6-4, 6-4 surprise result.

The Italians took some revenge in the meaningless mixed doubled with a 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) win.

“I worked hard on fitness in off-season, I needed that to hang in with Francesca,” said the 25-year-old Mattek-Sands, ranked 58th. “It was a great match. I played aggressive, not many people take chances like I do.”

The bubbly American in black knee-high socks and basketball shoes, said she went onto the court with a strategy against the Italian Grand Slam champion.

“It’s got to be one of my best, it’s my first top 10 win. She’s a great player. I think it was a great match. We both played good, we were both running around and sweating our asses off, but you know it’s human out there. It was a great win and I feel really good about it.”

Isner, feeling the humidity left by rain, kept himself hydrated and energised through out his two-hour battle with Starace.

The American, ranked 19th, twice recovered from a break down, in the first and third sets, and was proud of his comeback effort.

“The break in the third set freed me up. I went for my shots more after that,” he said.

“It was good to win by coming from behind. This could be a help and a confidence boost in the future.”

“Every point counts, so you don’t really tend to look that far in advance. Obviously you want to be there and that’s the goal, but its one match at a time.”

“Nothing’s set in stone. Hopefully we’ll exit the group and go to the final.”

Isner fired 23 aces and ended the contest with his final untouchable serve against Starace.

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