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Czechs emerge as Hopman favourites

By Chris Pike
29 December 2013 06:29PM EST

THE Czech Republic could very well be emerging as Hopman Cup favourites after Petra Kvitova and Radek Stepanek easily beat a makeshift Spanish team on Sunday at the Perth Arena.

The chances of the Czechs to win a second Hopman Cup in three years dramatically increased with top-seeds Poland and another tournament favourite Spain suffering the loss of their male stars on the eve of the tournament.

Italy was then all but bundled out on Saturday's opening session so when Czech pair Kvitova and Stepanek took to the court at the Perth Arena on Sunday, all they had to do was what was expected of them and take care of a severely weakened Spanish team.

And that's exactly what they did with world No. 6 Kvitova cruising to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over a hobbled Anabel Medina Garrigues, and then popular veteran Stepanek had no trouble against unheralded Spaniard Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, winning 6-2, 6-2.

The Czech Republic then secured the three-nil sweep in the tie with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the mixed doubles to be in prime position to qualify for Saturday's final from Group B.

The Hopman Cup got underway on Saturday with the top-seeded Polish team of Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil scored a clean sweep over Italy's Flavia Pennetta and Andreas Seppi, with Seppi forced to withdraw due to illness.

That basically means that Italy is out of the race for the final while Poland remains an unlikely winner despite being the top-seeds despite possessing the tournament's top-ranked female player in Radwanska.

Poland was given the top-seeding for the Hopman Cup when Radwanska was to be joined by young star Jerzy Janowicz, but he withdrew just over a week ago with a foot injury.

Then on Saturday night, the hopes of the Australian team of Bernard Tomic and Samantha Stosur took a severe blow when both lost their singles matches in disappointing fashion against Canada's Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard.

However, Tomic and Stosur at least won the mixed doubles to keep their final hopes alive.

Sunday's session was set up as a fascinating battle coming into the tournament between the Czech Republic and Spain, the last two winners of the Hopman Cup.

The Czechs won two years ago when Kvitova teamed with Tomas Berdych and Spain was victorious last year when Medina Garrigues teamed with Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco didn’t return, but Medina Garrigues is back again and was meant to be joined by a former two-time winner Tommy Robredo but he withdrew on the eve of the tournament with a hand injury.

That meant that the best Spanish replacement tournament organisers could find was world No. 194 Munoz-De La Nava, and that all but handed the Czechs the tie before it even got underway.

Neither Spanish player was able to be overly competitive in the singles matches with a hobbled Medina Garrigues and an outclassed Munoz-De La Nava managing just five games in total over the four sets against Kvitova and Stepanek.

The Czech Republic then also took care of business in the mixed doubles to be in prime position to qualify for Saturday's final with ties to come against the USA's Sloane Stephens and John Isner on Monday night and France's Alize Cornet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.

The Hopman Cup continues on Sunday night with the two winners from Saturday, Canada and Poland, doing battle.

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