Australia edged by Spain in Hopman Cup opener
Australia loses a close encounter to Spain at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
Lleyton Hewitt’s battered foot passed its first test but it wasn’t enough to stop Australia from slumping to defeat in their Hopman Cup tie against Spain in Perth on Sunday night.
Hewitt, making his first competitive appearance since re-injuring his foot in September, pushed world No.24 Fernando Verdasco to three sets before succumbing 6-3 3-6 7-5 in 128 minutes.
Verdasco’s triumph levelled the tie at 1-1 after Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 3-6 6-3 earlier in the day.
Spain then secured the tie with a 3-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak) triumph in the mixed doubles, with Australia squandering a match point on the way to the heartbreaking loss.
Hewitt entered the men’s singles rubber with a mountain of question marks surrounding his mangled left big toe.
But the 30-year-old, whose ranking has slipped to 186 following an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, displayed no discomfort against Verdasco as he wiped away some of the cobwebs following his lengthy lay-off.
“(I’m feeling) pretty good at the moment. We have a day off tomorrow which is nice,” Hewitt said.
After getting outplayed in the first set, Hewitt got the crucial early break in the second to send the match into a decider.
Verdasco raced to a 4-1 lead in the third, but the match looked set to go down to a tiebreak after Hewitt fought back to get on level terms.
However, two double-faults from Hewitt in his final service game gifted Verdasco match point, before the Australian fired a backhand long to allow Spain to level the tie.
Earlier, world No.33 Gajdosova kicked off 2012 in fighting fashion, overcoming a slight blip in the second set to grind down world No.27 Medina Garrigues in 121 minutes.
“I was really nervous,” Gajdosova said.
“It’s my first match so it took a bit longer to get into a rhythm.
“My feet were a little bit slow in the second. My feet kind of stopped and she started playing better.
“But I picked it up in the third set.
“It’s the first match and I’m glad how it went, and I’m glad it’s over.”
“Lleyton is a very tough player. He always fights to the end,” Verdasco said.
“He played really well.
“He’s a good friend and I hope he will have a good 2012 with no more injuries.”