- POSTED: 31 Dec 2013 01:49
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The French pairing of Alize Cornet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got their Hopman Cup off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic at the mixed teams tournament on Monday.
PERTH: The French pairing of Alize Cornet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got their Hopman Cup off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic at the mixed teams tournament on Monday.
The athletic Tsonga declared he was back to full fitness after opening the Group B tie with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4 win over 35-year-old Radek Stepanek.
Although Cornet then lost a thrilling match with former world number two Petra Kvitova, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 the French claimed the tie with a 6-1, 6-3 win in the mixed doubles.
Tsonga, who has been ranked as high as fifth in the world but enters 2014 at 10 after knee problems scuppered his hopes this year, made short work of the wily Stepanek.
The 28-year-old, who started his season in Abu Dhabi before arriving in Perth on Sunday, said he wasn't far off his best heading into the new year.
"It's (the knee) much better, it's finished now," he said.
"I have no pain anymore, I can play 100 per cent and it's good."
Tsonga missed this year's US Open because of his knee injury, and it also forced him to retire during his second round match at Wimbledon.
The Frenchman said he was still weary from his travel and was pleasantly surprised by his form against Stepanek.
"I just arrived yesterday so I was a bit tired but I played good tennis actually and I'm very happy to go through this one because it's not easy," he said.
In the women's singles, Kvitova prevailed over Cornet in an impressive battle that lasted over two hours.
Ranked sixth in the world, the big-hitting Kvitova looked to be in total control early as the 2011 Wimbledon champion continued the form she showed in dropping just one game in her opening singles match against Anabel Medina Garrigues on Sunday.
However, the 27th-ranked Frenchwoman fought back strongly in the second set.
Kvitova gained an early break in the third set and held it until she was broken by Cornet when serving for the match at 5-4.
The Czech immediately broke back and was able to serve out the match at her second attempt.
Earlier in the day, defending champions Spain crashed out of Hopman Cup contention when they were beaten 3-0 by the United States on Monday.
The Spanish pairing of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava were also beaten by the Czech Republic on Sunday and while they still have one group tie left, they cannot reach Saturday's final of the mixed teams tournament.
Medina Garrigues was thrashed 6-3, 6-1 by world number 12 Sloane Stephens in the women's singles.
The towering John Isner then cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the outclassed De La Nava, the world number 194 who was only called up for the tournament at the last moment to replace the injured Tommy Robredo.
In the mixed doubles, the Americans completed a clean sweep when they came from a set down to win 4-6, 6-0, 10-4 in a match tie-break.
It was the first tie of the tournament for the United States, who are aiming for a record seventh title in Perth.
Stephens, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, was far too good for the struggling Medina Garrigues, ranked 100th in the world.
Although the Spaniard was moving better than in Spain's opening tie when she battled knee soreness, she also appeared to be discomforted by the Perth heat and served several double faults late in the match.
The emerging Stephens had far too many shots for the veteran, hitting a number of impressive winners off both wings and wrapping up the match with a commanding overhead.
Medina Garrigues won all but one of her four singles matches as she teamed with Fernando Verdasco to win the title earlier this year, but has won just five games in her two outings this week.