By Dave Lindsay
Italy has secured a consolation win in the mixed doubles, surprising the highly fancied Serbian pair of Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, 7-6(4) 6-4.
Francesca Schiavone used her considerable doubles experience to control the net and received excellent support from partner Andreas Seppi as the Italians took the match in straight sets.
Fortunately Djokovic showed no ill-effects of an incident following his singles match when a courtside hoarding collapsed onto his legs.
The first set featured entertaining tennis and banter between the four players before the Italians produced the better tennis in the tiebreak, winning it 7-4 to take the lead.
An early service break in the second set against Schiavone was cancelled out when Djokovic surprisingly dropped his serve and the set appeared destined for another tiebreak.
However in the 10th game Ivanovic fell behind in her service game and when Schiavone drove a forehand across court for a clean winner the Italians had completed their first victory of the tournament.
Serbia had clinched the tie earlier via clinical singles triumphs.
Ivanovic blitzed Schiavone 6-0 6-4 before the world’s top ranked player warmed into his work with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over Seppi.
Ivanovic showed the benefits of days on the practice court and was in top form right from the start against the former French Open champion in a performance that suggests she is not at the Hyundai Hopman Cup for match practice.
Meanwhile Djokovic, who arrived in Perth only yesterday, struck the ball cleanly and made light work of his determined opponent.
Serbia’s next appearance is on Wednesday night when they take on the host nation in a clash sure to attract a huge crowd while Italy clash with Germany during Wednesday’s day session.
Djokovic makes a winning start in Perth
By Darren Saligari
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has clinched victory for Serbia with a 6-3 6-4 win over Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
Nobody who watched this game would say that this was Djokovic at his dominant best. But how could it be? The world No.1 arrived in Perth late yesterday afternoon from Abu Dhabi and only had “a few hours” sleep before his first match today at the Perth Arena in front of 8501 fans.
“I arrived late last night and didn’t get a lot of hours of sleep but I felt this morning like I’m dream walking,” said Djokovic.
“As the match went on I was managing to get my rhythm and I broke the ice I think after the first set and it felt a little bit better although it took me twice as much effort and of course I had a tough opponent.”
Despite having that advantage, it wasn’t enough for likeable Italian Seppi who worked hard but really was never in the hunt.
Having watched his teammate Ana Ivanovic take her opening set 6-0 against fellow French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, early on Djokovic looked like he was on track to equal the effort, racing to a 3-0 lead before Seppi held serve in the fourth game.
Sadly for the Italian the damage was done – Djokovic had the lead he needed. Even when Seppi had Djokovic on the run he was unable to capitalise – either a loose shot from the world No.23 would undo his good work or the world No.1 would turn defense into attack and trump his hard-working opponent.
One thing Djokovic did well today was serve. His first serve, which yielded seven aces, won him many points. Many Djokovic serves were simply unreturnable, while others set the Serb up for an easy put away.
After taking the first set 6-3, Djokovic extended his grip on the match by breaking Seppi in the fifth game of the second set. For Djokovic it was his second and final break point conversion for the match. Seppi, meanwhile, had five chances on the Djokovic serve, but was unable to convert one.
Looking to end the match quickly, Djokovic had match points on Seppi’s serve, but the Italian dug in and forced Djokovic to serve for the match, which he did – closing it out the very next game to take the final set 6-4 and give Serbia an unbeatable 2-0 lead heading into the mixed doubles.
“It was great to win in straight sets and hopefully we can have some fun in the mixed doubles and celebrate New Year’s Eve tonight.”