Williams puts US into Hopman Cup final

Serena Williams triumphed against a dogged Alicia Molik to see the United States advance to the Hopman Cup finals with a 3-0 clean sweep of Australia.

updated: January 06, 2008 14:30 IST
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PERTH:Serena Williams triumphed against a dogged Alicia Molik on Thursday to see the United States advance to the Hopman Cup finals with a 3-0 clean sweep of Australia.

Unbeaten after their first two ties, the Americans were guaranteed a berth in Friday's final once Williams completed her straight sets singles victory over Molik.

Williams' 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) win meant the US could not be dislodged from the top of Group B, regardless of other results.

Mardy Fish beat Peter Luczak in successive closely fought tie-breaks to win their match in straight sets, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (12-10).

The Americans made short work of the mixed doubles, winning 6-2, 6-3, to advance to their fourth Hopman Cup final in six years.

They have won three of the previous five Hopman Cups, with Williams teaming with James Blake to win the tournament in 2003.

Their opponent on Friday was to be determined by Group A ties on Thursday evening.

After a delayed arrival here due to illness, Williams opened her Hopman Cup with a narrow victory over Lucie Safarova on Monday, but felt her form improved against Molik.

"I felt that I returned well and I've been practicing my return," she said.

"It's all coming together and as long as I keep playing like this I'll be solid."

Williams said she was also happy with how her preparations for the Australian Open title defence were progressing.

"I feel like I've been training a little bit more," she said.

"I just feel a little more confident and I just didn't take an off season," she said.

Although ranked 40 places above Luczak at 39, Fish had his hands full with the Australian, who missed a simple forehand on set point in the second set.

"I could easily have lost in straight sets," Fish said.

"Pete makes you work really hard and is playing great tennis and I look forward to seeing his ranking go up in the next few months."

India started their final Group B tie against the winless Czech Republic with a slim chance of making the final if they could manage a clean sweep, but instead the Czechs broke their drought with a 2-1 win.

Safarova notched her first singles win of the week by beating Sania Mirza in three sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Mirza was slightly restricted by hamstring tightness during the match, but said it was a minor niggle and wouldn't affect her Australian Open preparations.

As expected, the 14th-ranked Tomas Berdych was far too good for the 267th-ranked Rohan Bopanna, winning 6-4, 6-0.

However, the Indians maintained their unblemished record in mixed doubles here with their sixth straight win in that format, 6-3, 6-2.