Australia Green booked their place in the final of the 2016 Hopman Cup on Friday after defeating France 2-1, dashing Great Britain's chances of meeting Ukraine in the Perth curtain-closer on Saturday.
Nick Kyrgios defeated Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4 in Australia Green's opening match, but the hosting team were forced to a doubles decider after Caroline Garcia beat Daria Gavrilova 6-4, 7-6(9). The Australians edged that clash 6-4, 2-6, 11-9 to set up a showdown with Ukraine.
Great Britain's hopes had been boosted on Friday after Andy Murray and Heather Watson strode to a 3-0 victory over Germany. They defeated Alexander Zverev and Sabine Lisicki respectively, before teaming up to triumph over Zverev and Lisicki in the doubles, but it counted for little in the end.
Read on for a recap of Friday's results as Australia pipped Great Britain to the final and will compete for the top prize in Perth.
|Heather Watson||6-3, 6-4||Sabine Lisicki|
|Andy Murray||6-3, 6-4||Alexander Zverev|
|Heather Watson/Andy Murray||6-3, 6-4||Sabine Lisicki/Alexander Zverev|
|Nick Kyrgios||6-4, 6-4||Kenny De Schepper|
|Daria Gavrilova||6-4, 7-6(7)||Caroline Garcia|
|Nick Kyrgios/Daria Gavrilova||6-4, 2-6, 11-9||Kenny De Schepper/Caroline Garcia|
Australian bad boy Kyrgios wasted no time in setting Great Britain back thanks to his 6-4, 6-4 win over De Schepper to get his side's Friday fixture list off on the right foot.
One of Kyrgios' greatest strengths in Wednesday's win over Murray was his ability to keep sets short and avoid long rallies, a game plan that once again worked to his advantage against De Schepper.
Only three of the 20 games played between the pair comprised of more than five points, and Kyrgios failed to surrender a single serve in what was a ruthless display of a plan being executed to perfection.
It's been 13 years since an Australian team last visited the Hopman Cup final and 17 since one last tasted victory, and Kyrgios noted what a special victory it would be if he and Gavrilova could clinch it, per the Associated Press (h/t official Hopman Cup website): “It’s an event that’s been held for a long, long time—before I was even born. It’s pretty special. Especially [for] me and Dasha—we grew up together in juniors. Hopefully we can bring it home.”
Australia Green were brought back down to earth, however, when Garcia returned the favour by defeating Gavrilova in straight sets and was rightly overjoyed with her 6-4, 7-6(9) win, as shown by the official Hopman Cup Twitter account:
Unlike team-mate Kyrgios, Gavrilova found her serve come under fire from her French rival, and Garcia didn't trail once in the fixture, even if her leads tended to come by the slimmest of margins.
With everything to play for in the doubles decider, tennis writer Chris Goldsmith noted how eager the Hopman Cup organisers were to see the remaining one of Australia's two teams make it to the final:
Kyrgios & Gavrilova looking too strong early on... Aussies had 2 teams in 8 man draw.. organisers want an Aussie in final...— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) January 8, 2016
The topsy-turvy nature of Friday's action continued in the doubles as France were broken in the opening game of the first set, which they went on to lose 6-4. That was before they hit back by breaking Australia Green twice in the second to claim an even more convincing 6-2 victory, and Garcia's serving really came to the fore.
The Frenchwoman even had an ace over Kyrgios to celebrate, per Live Tennis:
Murray and Watson will have watched a nail-biting third-set tiebreak with fingers crossed as France and Australia Green traded blows, and neither team could edge a two-point lead after 18 being played. Tennis writer Tumaini Carayol stated their chances of winning didn't look too hopeful:
Just turned on Hopman Cup to see De Schepper getting bullied off the ground by Daria Gavrilova. So.— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) January 8, 2016
The hosts looked like the more threatening for much of the tiebreak, but breaks proved few and far between as each outfit managed to claw level time and time again.
That was until Kyrgios served to finally pull Australia Green the necessary two points clear at 11-9 and seal a landmark final:
Great Britain needed to muster a clean sweep of Friday's opposition in order to stand a chance of making the final, and they responded with three straight-sets victories against the Germans.
Not only that, but in an eerie display of synchronicity, both singles matches and the doubles duel were won by 6-3, 6-4 margins, placing all the pressure in Australia Green's hands.
First up was Watson, who clinched a crucial break at 4-3 in the first set before serving out to 15 against former training partner Lisicki.
The second set proved to be a more balanced affair, but she rarely looked out of sorts and responded well at 4-3 down by clinching three games in succession to seal the tie. Per the Associated Press, Watson was pleased with her performance (h/t SBS):
Today was, I am not going to say some of the best tennis I have played because the rallies were really short, but I feel like I have definitely got better. Today, just when I was warming up before the match I knew I was feeling great in all aspects of my game.
Thanks to Watson's fine display, Murray knew all he had to do was book a second victory and keep Great Britain's momentum turning over, which he did against youngster Zverev.
Coming into the match, tennis writer Chris Goldsmith was eager to see how the 18-year-old would fare against Murray:
Exciting to see future superstar Alexander Zverev play against Andy Murray in Hopman Cup. Hopefully he will show viewers what he can do— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) January 7, 2016
The first set proved to be fairly one-sided, and Murray broke Zverev at 3-1 before serving out the remainder of the set at 6-3 to follow Watson's lead.
Zverev made a much greater contest of the second set, however, and he threatened to force a tense finish after almost edging a break point at 5-4, but Murray gathered his thoughts to see out the win 6-3, 6-4. Sahil Jaidka of Sky News congratulated the Britons on their triumph:
Lisicki and Zverev led for a total of just one game in the doubles, where Murray and Watson were the superior pair by a great margin and hardly seemed ruffled by their German opponents.
Friday's result was in stark contrast to Wednesday's defeat to Australia Green, but the hosts ultimately proved to be the most deserving outfit as they set up a title collision with Ukraine's Group A stars.