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Tsonga and France make winning start

By Chris Pike
31 December 2013 03:28AM EST

FLAMBOYANT Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made a winning start to his Hopman Cup campaign leading France to a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic at the Perth Arena on Monday night.

It was the opening tie at this year's Hopman Cup for the French team of Alize Cornet and Tsonga, and they got the better of the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova and Radek Stepanek thanks to victories in the men's singles and mixed doubles.

The Czech Republic were coming off a win on Sunday against Spain but couldn’t quite back that up with the French duo now suddenly moving into a strong position to qualify for Saturday's final with ties to come against the USA on New Year's Day and Spain on Friday.

The Czech Republic can still make the final with a win over the USA pairing of Sloane Stephens and John Isner on Friday.

Spain remains the only team out of the raining to make Saturday's final from Group B while the Polish team of Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil is in the box seat to qualify from Group A.

Monday night's session at the Perth Arena began with the men's singles clash between Tsonga and Stepanek.

The world No. 10 Frenchman proved far too good earning an early break in both sets. He cruised through the first winning it 6-1 and then Stepanek did fight back to get to within 4-5 in the second set, but Tsonga held firm to take out the match 6-1, 6-4.

It was then on to the women's singles and for the second straight night it was an outstanding tennis match.

Following on from a terrific contest between Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Poland's Radwanska on Sunday night, Cornet and Kvitova put on a show for a Perth Arena crowd that has so far been starved of high-quality tennis this week with stars withdrawing and retiring ill or playing half-heartedly.

The Czech world No. 6 raced through the first set winning it 6-1, but Cornet wasn’t about to throw it in that easily fighting back in the second set and winning it 6-3.

It was then quite the battle throughout the deciding set and after a gruelling contest with both players playing some high-class tennis, it was Kvitova's quality that just shone through in the finish as she won the set 7-5 to send the tie into a deciding mixed doubles.

Surprisingly despite the doubles prowess of Stepanek, it was the French team of Cornet and Tsonga who dominated the mixed doubles contest winning it 6-1, 6-3 to give France the two rubbers to one victory to make a winning start to their Hopman Cup campaign.

There will be just the one session of play on Tuesday at the Hopman Cup with Australia's Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic taking on Italy's Flavia Pennetta and Andreas Seppi.

Italy is all but out of the running for the final after losing to Poland three-nil on Saturday when Seppi was forced to retire due to illness.

Australia also faces an uphill battle to make the final after losing 2-1 to Canada when both Stosur and Tomic lost their singles matches.

Tomic, in particular, has some work to do to show that he is in Perth for more than a Christmas/New Year holiday after simply refusing to try in the second set of his opening night singles match against Canada's Milos Raonic.

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