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Hopman Cup curse strikes early

By Chris Pike
28 December 2013 08:47PM EST

THE injury and illness curse that tends to strike every year at Perth's Hopman Cup has struck early costing Italy the tournament's opening tie following two stars already pulling out.

Poland was gifted victory over Italy on Saturday in the opening tie of the Hopman Cup to open the summer of tennis at the Perth Arena when world No. 25 Italian Andreas Seppi was forced to retire with illness in the men's singles match.

Poland got off to a fast start in the nation's Hopman Cup debut when world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska scored a hard fought victory over US Open semi-finalist Flavia Pennetta, even though the scoreline made it look relatively easy at 6-2, 6-2.

Unheralded Grzegorz Panfil, ranked No. 288 in the world, then took advantage of a clearly unwell Seppi winning the first set 6-2 and then the men's singles clash was called off when the Italian retired at 2-2 in the second set giving Poland the unbeatable two-nil victory.

The mixed doubles were then called off giving Poland a 3-0 rubber victory but the three healthy players still took to the court with 15-year-old Australian Oliver Anderson taking Seppi's place. He and Pennetta were no match for the Polish pair, though, who won 6-2, 6-1.

It was a horror start to the tournament for Hopman Cup organisers who had been banking on the evenness of talent across the field of being the main drawcard of this year's event with none of the world's top nine men appearing, and Radwanska being the highest-ranked female at five in the world.

However, on the eve of the tournament exciting Polish talent Jerzy Janowicz withdraw back on December 19 due to foot injury meaning that the Poland dream team of he and Radwanska wouldn't eventuate.

Then on Friday it was confirmed that world No. 18 and former two-time Hopman Cup winner for Spain Tommy Robredo had withdrawn with an arm injury.

The 31-year-old was rejuvenated throughout 2013 and was expected to form one of the favourites for the Hopman Cup this year alongside another past winner Anabel Medina Garrigues, but it wasn’t to be and his spot has been taken by world No. 194 Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

And now the Italian team is all but out of the running of the tournament after the opening session with the three-nil defeat at the hands of Poland.

Even if Seppi is able to play his next two matches, Italy will need to win their two ties against Australia and Canada basically in clean sweeps to remain any chance of making the final despite coming in with a strong team of Seppi and the strong all-rounder player Pennetta.

It continues a long history in Perth at the Hopman Cup of injury and illness playing havoc with the tournament.

There are the famous occasions when Lleyton Hewitt has missed being able to play in the final firstly because of his own bout of chicken pox, and also when Alicia Molik was forced to withdraw due to illness.

There has been the Mark Philippoussis withdrawals, Venus Williams agreeing to come on several occasions and being a late withdrawal, and even popular Serbian pair Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic once had to forfeit their place in the final due to an Ivanovic stomach injury.

Tennis Australia is running the Hopman Cup for the second year after assuming control from tournament director Paul McNamee, and now will be desperately hoping the Australian team of Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic makes a strong start on Saturday night against Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic.

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