Early joy for the Aussies

  • Other Sport
  • Wednesday, 01 Jan 2003

PERTH: World number one Lleyton Hewitt kicked off his New Year celebrations a few hours early yesterday, demolishing Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-0 as Australia maintained their 100% record in the mixed team event. 

The one-sided victory secured a win for the second-seeded Australian pair who went on to take the mixed doubles 7-6, 7-6 for a 3-0 whitewash over the Slovaks. 

Earlier Alicia Molik topped off 2002 with the best win of her career, beating world number eight Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2. 

The victory was her first over a top 10-ranked player. Australia have yet to lose a set in the contest. 

back to you . . . Slovaka's Daniela Hantuchova makes a return to Alicia Molik of Australia during their Hopman Cup Group B match in Perth yesterday. Molik won 6-4,6-2 to help Australia to a 3-0 win.-AFPpic

“We’re doing alright aren’t we ... the South Australians are doing okay,” grinned Hewitt who grew up with Molik in Adelaide. “I needed a good match today and got that. To come out here and win in under an hour ... that’s pretty hard in men’s tennis these days.” 

Hewitt has dominated men’s tennis throughout 2002, remaining in the number one spot for the entire year. His ruthless demolition of Hrbaty ended his year in fitting style. 

“I felt like I needed to step it up a notch today and I did just that,” Hewitt said. “I didn’t really give him a chance to play his best tennis and that is what it is all about.” 

Molik’s victory was less expected and clearly thrilled the 21-year-old. 

“Yeah, that’s my first top 10 scalp,” she beamed courtside after completing her 66-minute victory. “It was something I was searching for this year – so to get it on the last day is pretty special. 

“It means I might be able to celebrate New Year a bit more I guess.” 

Molik, like Hewitt, is due to attend a Hopman Cup black tie ball later yesterday, but did not wait till then to start her celebrations. 

She played a fine game on court against the world number eight, serving with great power and striking the ball firmly off both sides. 

The 94th-ranked Molik reduced the 86 places which separate the two to a hair’s breadth and ran the Slovak ragged on Burswood’s main court. 

A break in the ninth game of the opening set gave her the opportunity to seal the set and once she was ahead she never looked back. 

Thrilling a boisterous home crowd, the blonde South Australian broke twice more to clinch the match in emphatic fashion. 

“I was very, very happy with my performance,” she said afterwards. 

“I have had opportunities to win matches like that in the past but have been unable to follow through. This win gives me a lot of confidence – I will carry that through to 2003.”  

Earlier on Monday, Serena Williams served notice she is ready for an assault on next month’s Australian Open with a withering straight sets win over Uzbekistan’s Iroda Tulyaganova in Group A. 

Only a day after arriving in the Western Australian capital for her first tilt at the mixed team crown, the world number one sizzled to victory, 6-3, 6-2, in 59 minutes. 

Her partner, 23-year-old James Blake, showed great stamina in wearing down Oleg Ogorodov 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 for an unbeatable 2-0 lead. 

The top-seeded Americans made it a complete 3-0 sweep when Williams and Blake combined to outclass Tulyaganova and Ogorodov 6-3, 6-1. – Agencies 

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