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Tsonga, Cornet in Hopman Cup box seat

By Chris Pike
2 January 2014 02:48AM EST

FRANCE'S Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alize Cornet have taken another step closer to the Hopman Cup final with a 2-1 victory over the USA at the Perth Arena on New Year's Day.

Both France and the USA had won their opening tie at the Hopman Cup with Cornet and Tsonga leading the French to a win over the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova and Radek Stepanek while Americans Sloane Stephens and John Isner beat the makeshift Spanish team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

That set up a tantalising meeting on the first evening of 2014 with the winner always to put themselves in prime position to qualify for Saturday's final.

The session got underway with the women's singles match between world No. 12 American Stephens and the 27th-ranked Cornet.

Cornet put up a terrific contest pushing Kvitova all the way in her opening match while Stephens had no trouble whatsoever accounting for Spanish veteran Medina Garrigues on her Hopman Cup debut.

Both players brought that form into 2014 and it was a terrific battle in the first set with Stephens just managing to win it in the finish 7-5.

It was then all the 20-year-old American in the second set as she didn’t concede a game taking it out 6-0 to comfortable put the USA one-nil up in the tie.

The men's glamour match of the week then took centre stage at the Perth Arena between the world No. 10 Tsonga and the 14th-ranked Isner who has been as high as nine during his career.

It was a tight, entertaining and hard-hitting affair right throughout the first set and it went to a tie-break where the Frenchman proved too good for the giant American winning it emphatically seven points to one.

Tsonga then continued that momentum into the second set easily winning it six games to three to secure the victory for France 7-6 (1), 6-3 to set up a deciding mixed doubles encounter to close out the night.

The 35cm size difference between the American pair of Stephens and Isner was certainly a sight to behold as they strode out onto the Perth Arena together, but once the mixed doubles action got underway it was the French team that had all the answers.

Cornet and Tsonga raced through the opening set winning the first five games before winning it 6-1.

The Americans did hit back in the second set and started well but they couldn’t maintain the advantage with the France team firing back to level things up.

However, before things went to a tie-break, Isner and Stephens managed to edge ahead to win the set 7-5 and force a Match Tie-Break.

It was Cornet and Tsonga that again took the edge for France and won it 10 points to five to win the tie and now sit in a prime position to qualify for Saturday's final in an attempt to win the Hopman Cup for the first time for their country.

France will need to beat Spain on Friday to guarantee a spot in the final.

A loss for the French will keep the door open for the winner of Friday night's clash between the USA and Czech Republic. But the Americans and Czechs can only make the final if France loses to Spain first.

The finalist from the other group will now be decided on Thursday with a day and night session at the Perth Arena.

It begins in the morning with Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic taking on Italy's Flavia Pennetta and Andreas Seppi.

The night session will then see Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil face off with Australia's Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic.

Poland will be guaranteed a spot in the final just by beating Australia by any margin, but if Stosur and Tomic manage to win then both Canada and Italy could still be a chance of sneaking into the final depending on who wins that tie.

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