U.S. beats Slovakia in Hopman Cup

PERTH, Australia, AP

A dramatic comeback in the final game by Jan-Michael Gambill was rewarded with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 triumph over Dominik Hrbaty and an American victory at the Hopman Cup mixed team event Monday. Monica Seles had begun the day with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Karina Habsudova and a mixed doubles win later gave the Americans a 3-0 win over Slovakia. There was little to choose between Gambill and Hrbaty, with the first two sets each decided by a single break of serve. The American struck a fine backhand pass to break to 4-2 and take the opening set, before Hrbaty fought back to snatch a break at the same stage of the second set. Seles started slowly, struggling to find her range, and faced three break points to go down 3-0 before staging a comeback. Then, from 1-3, she claimed 16 of the next 17 points to lead 5-3 and serve for the set. In the second, Habsudova edged a break to lead 5-3 and saved a break point in the next game with an ace to level the match. But in the decider, Seles always looked the more likely victor after hitting a smash to break for a 2-0 lead. “It took me a while to wake up because I was very flat coming out,” said Seles. “Being 3-0 down immediately would have made a huge difference to the match, but I couldn’t find my rhythm at all. “I was so sluggish and my goal was just to wake up and get some points going, get my feet moving.” In the doubles, Seles and Gambill combined to defeat Habsudova and Hrbaty 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). In the evening session Monday, a Marat Safin-led Russia played qualifiers Belgium. On Tuesday, host nation Australia will play defending champions South Africa in the morning session, with Slovakia to play Belgium in the evening. Safin unable to save Russia from Hopman Cup defeat

World number two Marat Safin suffered a disastrous start to the new season on Monday when he was beaten by Olivier Rochus.

Safin succumbed 2-6 6-1 6-3 to Rochus, as Russia, making their debut in the mixed team competition, were beaten by Belgium in the best-of-three rubbers tie.

The 17 year-old Kim Clijsters had given Belgium a 1-0 lead by defeating Russia’s Elena Likhovtseva 6-1 6-4.

Safin, 20, had not played competitively since losing the chance to finish last season as world number one at the Masters Cup in Lisbon in December.

The U.S. Open champion took a 3-1 lead in the deciding set but Rochus, ranked 67th in the world, reeled off five games in a row to clinch victory.