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11 December 2023

Top seeds Serbia see off Australia

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns to Lleyton Hewitt of Australia during their men’s singles match on day four of the Hopman Cup Tournament in Perth on Tuesday. (AFP)

By Reuters

Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic maintained the buoyant mood in Serbian tennis when they overpowered Australia 3-0 to move closer to a place in the final of the Hopman Cup mixed team event on Tuesday.

Playing what he described as some of his best tennis “for a year and half” world number three Djokovic brushed aside Lleyton Hewitt 6-2 6-4 and Ivanovic eased to a 6-4 6-0 win over Alicia Molik. They joined forces to win the mixed doubles 6-7 7-5 10-6.
“I played great,” Djokovic, who little more than a month ago inspired Serbia to win the Davis Cup for the first time against France in Belgrade, told reporters. “From the start of the match, especially at the end of the first set, I played some of my best tennis in a year and a half.”
Serbia now need to win just one rubber on Thursday when they play Belgium, who whitewashed Kazakhstan 3-0 in the day’s other Group A match.
Djokovic, who has been training with Britain’s Andy Murray throughout the week as the build-up to this month’s Australian Open intensifies, looked lean and mean as he bullied Hewitt from the baseline with some outstanding hitting.
Hewitt’s only moment of hope came when he recovered a break to level at 2-2 in the second set but Djokovic broke in the 10th game to clinch an impressive win against the former world No.1.
Ivanovic survived an injury scare as she came through a tough first set before crushing Molik in the second.
She said she felt a sharp pain in her left knee in the third game of the second set but, though she planned to check it with the medical staff, she believed it would not be a problem.
Justine Henin, another former world number one, continued her comeback from a six-month injury absence with a 6-4 6-3 victory against Kazakh stand-in Sesil Karatantcheva.
Ruben Bemelmans then upset the much higher-ranked Andrey Golubev 6-4 6-4 and the Belgians won the mixed 4-6 6-2 10-8.
In just her second match since Wimbledon because of a serious elbow injury, Henin was a little rusty but had too much experience for world number 140 Karatantcheva.
Having arrived in Perth late on Monday as a replacement for the injured Yaroslava Shvedova, Karatantcheva had Henin worried when she broke to lead 3-1 in the second set before the Belgian reeled off five games.
“It’s not that easy especially after the injury so I am working hard to come back,” Henin said.
“It’s the first two matches so I know it’s going to take a bit of time but it’s just great to have the opportunity to play a few matches and have competition again.”
Bemelmans, ranked 178, enjoyed one of the best wins of his career as he outplayed 36th ranked Golubev.