Ukraine is looking the goods to win the Hopman Cup Final, writes Anthony Meo.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Elina Svitolina have recorded Ukraine’s second win at Hopman Cup 2016, defeating Czech duo Jiri Vesely and Karolina Pliskova at the Perth Arena today.
Svitolina got the ball rolling for team Ukraine in the opening match of the day, overcoming world number 11 Karolina Pliskova 7-5 6-2, in a highly anticipated matchup.
The 19th ranked Svitolina started the better of the two and broke the Pliskova serve early on. However it was the Czech number three, who restored the balance soon after breaking back, with a combination of powerful groundstrokes and a strong serve.
The powerful Pliskova, who boasts the record for the most number of aces on the WTA tour in 2015, began to show signs of fatigue on her serve and it was Svitolina who was able to break again for a 5-4 lead.
However she wasn’t able to serve the set out and required yet another break of the Pliskova serve to get the upper hand in the set, serving it out 7-5.
Svitolina continued her dominance of her highly ranked opponent in the second set. The polished defensive display from the 21 year old, leaves her unbeaten in 2016 and in good shape to make a big impact at the Australian Open later this month.
Both players were coming off wins in their previous matches, with Svitolina easing her way through USA’s Vicky Duval 6-4 6-1, who stood in for Serena Williams after she succumbed to knee inflammation, whilst Pliskova started with a convincing display against Australia’s Jarmila Wolfe (née Gajdosova), winning 7-5 6-3.
In the men’s singles, Jiri Vesely battled hard to keep the Czech Republic in the tie, but it was Alexandr Dolgopolov who came out victorious 7-5 7-6(3) in a tight contest.
The big serving Czech went toe-to-toe with the flamboyant Dolgopolov, with a solitary break of serve proving the difference in a close opening set. It was game for game for much of the set, with Vesely looking the more threatening to break serve, having a number of break point opportunities. However it was Dolgopolov who was able to starve Vesely of the crucial break and was able to get his own break of serve late in the set to claim the first set 7-5.
The second set was another tight affair. Dolgopolov’s heavy spin serve looked to cause a few problems for the big Vesely but it was the unorthodox Dolgopolov who prevailed in the tiebreak 7-3, winning the match and giving Ukraine an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie.
The Czech team restored some pride in the mixed doubles, victorious in straight sets 6-3 6-1. Both teams provided plenty of entertainment in the dead rubber, but it was the Czechs who came out on top in convincing fashion. The loss was the only blemish on the day for the Ukraine pairing, who haven’t had a win in their two mixed doubles outings.
The win puts the Ukrainians, who are the only undefeated team in Group A, in the box seat to reach Saturday’s Final.
Their next match-up is against Australia Gold on Thursday, where they will face Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt and Jarmila Wolfe.
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