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France claims maiden Hopman Cup

By Chris Pike
5 January 2014 03:16AM EST

QUALITY women's matches have been the highlight of the Hopman Cup all week and that was the case again in the final as France beat Poland to end a tournament marred by injury dramas.

Alize Cornet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the first team to win the Hopman Cup for France with their nation having now participated in 18 tournaments in Perth and previously losing two finals in 1998 and 2012.

Tsonga got the French team off to a winning start in Saturday night's final at the Perth Arena beating Poland's Grzegorz Panfil 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 before Agnieszka Radwanska levelled the tie beating Cornet 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 before France won the mixed doubles 6-0, 6-2.

The Hopman Cup has been marred by injury withdrawals before the tournament and has continued right throughout the week with Italy's Andreas Seppi and Flavia Pennetta, and Americans Sloane Stephens and John Isner, having their campaigns ravaged by injury and illness.

That was on the back of having rising Polish star Jerzy Janowicz and Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo withdraw on the eve of the tournament robbing the Perth Arena of some marquee men's match-ups.

Despite a remarkable upset of world No. 288 replacement Polish player Panfil beating world No. 11 Canadian Milos Raonic on Sunday night, the men's matches at this year's tournament have been largely forgettable.

That was basically the case again as the Saturday night final got underway at the Perth Arena with world No. 10 Tsonga beating Panfil 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to give France a one-nil lead in the final.

It was then time for the women to take the court as world No. 5 Radwanska took on the 27th-ranked Cornet and it was another outstanding match as the females continued to save the show at the Hopman Cup.

The week had already seen outstanding matches between Radwanska and Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova and Cornet, and Radwanska and Stosur.

Poland's Radwanska was the highest-ranked player at the Hopman Cup and knew she he had to win to force the final into a mixed doubles, and she got off to a fast start.

Radwanska raced out to a 3-0 start to open the women's singles clash with Cornet before comfortably winning the first set 6-3 even though it was on the back of just the one break of serve.

Things were significantly tighter in a gruelling second set but Radwanska did look on track to win breaking Cornet's serve in the pivotal eighth game after leading 4-3.

She went on to lead 5-3 and earned a match point while serving for the match having fought back from being 0-40 down, but the Frenchwoman showed some incredible fight in the ninth game to break back.

Things ended up in a second set tie-break, but only after some incredible play in the lead-up including a point where Cornet ran herself around the court so hard that she was hyperventilating and brought to tears.

She had also developed a limp, but an unsympathetic umpire James Keothavong was quick to give her a time violation after that gruelling point.

In the tie-break, Cornet again continued to play well beyond her ranking of No. 27 in the world against the fifth-ranked Radwanska opening up a 4-2 lead and then 6-3 before the Pole was able to put the pressure on for her to serve it out.

Cornet couldn’t on her first attempt as things evened up at 6-6 but the Frenchwoman wouldn’t be denied ended up winning the tie-break eight points to six to force the deciding third set to see if the Hopman Cup would be decided in the mixed doubles or not.

However, Radwanska steadied enough to cruise through the final set 6-2.

Cornet showed no signs of fatigue as the teams came back out for the mixed doubles with the French duo winning the first eight games of the contest to lead 6-0, 2-0 before Radwanska and Panfil could get Poland on the board.

It was far too little too late, though, as France went on to comfortable win the mixed doubles 6-0, 6-2 to win the Hopman Cup for their nation for the first time.

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