The United States saw their defence of the Hopman Cup ended by Germany as they fell to a 2-1 defeat. Having suffered a surprising 3-0 whitewash by Slovakia in their opening contest, the American pairing of Meghann Shaughnessy and James Blake needed to win to stand any chance of progressing from Group A to the final. Sabine Lisicki got the Germans off to an ideal start with a tough three-set victory over Shaughnessy.
Lisicki dropped the first set before winning 12 of the last 16 games to emerge a 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 winner. Blake then kept the US in the contest with a marathon 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 win over Nicolas Kiefer in two and half hours. Kiefer took the first set and held match points in the second-set tiebreak, but Blake dug deep to keep his dream of a third Hopman Cup alive. Keeping up with the other matches, the decisive mixed doubles rubber also went the distance with the Germans eventually winning the third-set tie-break 10-7 to seal a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 success.
Elsewhere, Italy came back from the brink of defeat to upset tournament favourites France by two rubbers to one in the fifth session yesterday. Alize Cornet gave France the lead with a 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Flavia Pennetta in one hour and 20 minutes. A French victory looked a foregone conclusion, with world No 7 Gilles Simon playing Simone Bolelli in the second rubber. But the little-known Italian stunned his higher-ranked opponent with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
The Italian mixed doubles team won 7-2 in the tie-breaker of the second set to win 6-4, 7-6. To have a chance of qualifying for Sunday's final, Italy must beat Chinese Taipei and rely on Russia losing one of their matches. Australia's bid for a second Hopman Cup also ended after they lost 2-1 to Slovakia in the sixth session. * Agencies