PERTH, Australia (AFP) –
World number one Novak Djokovic bounced back to his imposing best as Serbia advanced to the Hopman Cup final on Friday.
The Serbian pairing of Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic beat Germany 3-0 to finish their round robin ties unbeaten and earn the right to face the Spanish pairing of Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues in Saturday’s mixed teams final.
It is the third time the Serbian duo have played together at the Hopman Cup and the second time they have reached the final.
They also qualified for the title decider in 2011, but didn’t take their place in the final after Ivanovic suffered an abdominal strain.
Serbia have only played in the final once before, when Djokovic and Jelena Jankovic were beaten by the American pairing of Serena Williams and Mardy Fish in 2008.
Djokovic, surprisingly beaten by local youngster Bernard Tomic on Wednesday, gave the Serbians the lead in the tie with a dominant performance against German veteran Tommy Haas in their singles clash, before Ivanovic secured the tie by demolishing Tatjana Malek.
The durable Haas is ranked 21st in the world, but he had no answer to the shotmaking of Djokovic, who took just over an hour to win 6-2, 6-0.
Haas duly withdrew from the dead mixed doubles rubber, citing a toe injury.
Djokovic said it had taken a few days to acclimatise to Australian conditions, but that he was back on track for his Australian Open title defence.
“I felt drastically better than in the first few days here, I’ve had a few more hours of practice, rest and sleep and got used to the conditions here,” he said.
“Right now, I believe I am where I need to be (for the Australian Open).
“Not 100 per cent physically, but I am getting there and we are still working on some things that will make me feel 100 per cent for Melbourne in 10 days.”
Ivanovic continued her superb form by taking just 37 minutes to beat Malek 6-0, 6-1, hitting 16 winners to the German’s one, and was thrilled to reach the final.
“We have been dreaming about this moment for so long,” Ivanovic said of reaching the final.
While Djokovic’s confidence was rising ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam, starting on Monday week in Melbourne, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had his Australian Open plans thrown into disarray by a hamstring injury suffered earlier in the day.
Tsonga retired during France’s mixed doubles clash with South Africa and subsequently withdrew from next week’s Sydney International due to a left hamstring strain.
The world number eight appeared to suffer the injury when stretching for a shot late in his straight sets win over Kevin Anderson that gave him a clean sweep of his singles matches during the tournament.
South Africa beat France 2-1 as a result of Tsonga’s injury, but both teams were already out of contention for the final.
Tsonga beat Anderson in straight sets 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3) to level the tie after Chanelle Scheepers beat Mathilde Johansson 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.Published 04 Jan 2013, 18:50 IST