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Preview: can Spain upset Serbia?

In the final of Hopman Cup 2013, top-seeded Serbia seeks its first title in the event’s history, while Spain pursues its second in four years.
5 January 2013, by Hopman Cup

In the final of Hopman Cup 2013, top-seeded Serbia seeks its first title in the event’s history, while Spain pursues its second in four years and fourth overall writes Chris Skelton.

Match 1: Novak Djokovic v Fernando Verdasco

Although Novak Djokovic and Fernando Verdasco’s head-to-head record stands at just 5-4 in favour of the Serb, Verdasco has defeated Djokovic only twice since his emergence in 2007. Both of those victories came on clay where he plays his most convincing tennis and Djokovic his least. Nevertheless, the Spanish lefty won sets in each of their two hard-court meetings over the last five years before the world No.1 displayed his superior fitness and focus in their latter stages. Verdasco’s serve should pose an intriguing challenge for Djokovic, arguably the best returner in tennis history, for the Spaniard has used it effectively this week to open the court for his first groundstroke. Only sporadically at his best so far, the world No.1 still has looked sharper this week at key moments than Verdasco, who has won just one of his singles matches despite Spain’s perfect record. Crosscourt rallies should feature an entertaining battle of strength against strength with Djokovic’s lethal two-hander against Verdasco’s vicious lefty forehand. With his more balanced groundstrokes, the Serb should jerk the Spaniard around the baseline and force him into low-percentage shots—assuming that he can parry the initial blows from Verdasco’s serve.

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Match 2: Ana Ivanovic v Anabel Medina Garrigues

The veteran counterpuncher Anabel Medina Garrigues faces an extremely stern test against Serbian former No.1 Ana Ivanovic, who has won three of their four previous meetings and thrashed her in their only hard-court clash. Impressive in round-robin routs of Francesca Schiavone and Ashleigh Barty, Ivanovic has looked determined to earn the diamond trophy that eluded her two years ago. Although she won two of her three singles matches so far, Medina Garrigues usually struggles against servers as formidable as the Serb at her finest. The Spanish veteran frequently drops her own service games and thus must hope to compensate by breaking her opponent. Whereas Ivanovic will aim to end points quickly with bold serves and returns followed by heavy forehands, Medina Garrigues will try to extend the rallies and test her opponent’s consistency. If she stays close, she could test Ivanovic’s resolve late in sets, but that objective is much easier stated than accomplished for someone with her limited weapons.

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Match 3: Serbia v Spain mixed doubles

While each of the Spaniards enters the singles as clear underdogs, the balance of power will shift in the doubles, where their experience gives them the edge over the Serbs. If they simply can split the singles, then, they might well snatch this title from the top seeds. Verdasco and Medina Garrigues have won five of their six doubles matches at the Hopman Cup over the past two years, losing only to the towering serves of Isner and Venus Williams. Their greater comfort around the net and stronger sense of the unique shot-making opportunities created by the doubles format might prove valuable against a duo that rarely plays together. That said, the serve of Medina Garrigues is by far the most vulnerable of the four, and Serbia should threaten it consistently with their fierce returns.

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Serbia v Spain tickets

There are still some tickets remaining for tonight’s final between Spain and Serbia. Tickets can be purchased online from ticketek.com.au.

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