Slovak duo beats Russian pair to win third Hopman Cup
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The Slovak Republic claimed its third Hopman Cup after a 2-0 win over Russia in the final of the mixed teams tournament. Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty got the better of Dinara Safina and Marat Safin in two hard-fought three-set thrillers.
AFP - The Slovak Republic won their third Hopman Cup here Friday, beating Russia 2-0 in the final of the mixed teams tournament.
The Slovakian pairing of Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty beat Russian siblings and second seeds Dinara Safina and Marat Safin in two thrilling singles matches to claim the title, after being seeded seventh in the eight-nation tournament.
Hrbaty joined a select group of players to have won two Hopman Cup titles, having teamed with Daniela Hantuchova to also win here in 2005, while Karol Kucera and Karina Habsudova first won it for the Slovak Republic in 1998.
In the women's singles, the emerging Cibulkova caused an upset when she beat world No.3 Safina in three sets, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-4.
Then the 31-year-old Hrbaty also came from a set down to beat 29th-ranked Safin in another tight three setter, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
The women's singles was one of the finest ever seen in a Hopman Cup final, with the diminutive Cibulkova, ranked 19 in the world, notching her first win over the 21cm taller Safina to cap an impressive week of singles form.
Safina, ranked third in the world and one of the likely contenders at the Australian Open, recovered from a break down in the first set to claim it in a tie-break when Cibulkova double faulted on the Russian's first set point.
But the 19th-ranked Cibulkova, unbeaten in four singles matches this week, lifted as the Safina forehand lost its radar and her serve faltered in the second set.
The pugnacious Slovak reeled off the last five games of the set and continued that form into the decider, sweeping to a 5-1 lead after winning 11 of the previous 12 games.
However, just when Safina seemed vanquished, the Russian rallied and clawed her way back to 5-4 as Cibulkova was unable to serve out the match at the first attempt.
Safina then had two break points to level the match, but Cibulkova hung tough and an errant forehand from the Russian on the second match point finally handed the Slovak a well-earned win.
It was the teenager's first win in three matches against Safina.
The cagey Hrbaty, ranked 221 places below Safin at 250 in the world, then continued a fine week of singles form that belied his lowly ranking to seal the final.
Safin seemed set to level the tie when he produced a stunning forehand pass to clinch the first set and served a barrage of aces early in the second.
However, Hrbaty broke in the 11th game of the second set and leveled the match, before clinching the Hopman Cup in the third set tie-break.
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