PERTH, Australia- Americans Monica Seles and Jan-Michael Gambill boosted their hopes of reaching the Hopman Cup tennis final while ending those of Russia in a bruising six-and-a-half hour duel here on Wednesday.
During a thrilling deciding 105-minute mixed doubles confrontation, Seles and Gambill edged out men’s world number two Marat Safin and partner Elena Likhovtseva to clinch the crucial tie 2-1 after the singles clashes had been shared.
The Americans, third-seeded of the eight nations in the round-robin contest, beat the Russian pair – seeded second – 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
It was the United States’ second win in the competition, following their sweeping 3-0 drubbing of Slovakia on Monday.
Russia registered their second successive loss, having lost 2-1 to Belgium in a shock result on the same day.
Safin, 20, had kept the Russians in the tie at the Burswood Dome when he defeated 23-year-old Gambill, ranked 33rd in the world, in the men’s singles in three sets, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 after Seles had overcome Likhovtseva in the women’s singles.
Seles, 27, ranked fourth in the world, used her vast experience to grind down a plucky Likhovtseva, 25, ranked 21st.
Seles, the former world number one, got home in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
“I am playing pretty well and I am happy with my form,” Seles said.
“I just hope I am not going to get into top form too soon – because I want to be playing well in two weeks during the Australian Open.”
Seles said she would love to help her adopted nation win the Hopman Cup, having helped to guide her native country, Yugoslavia, to the title 10 years ago when she partnered Goran Prpic.
In that success the Yugoslav pair defeated the United States, represented by David Wheaton and Zina Garrison, in the final.
Safin was relieved to wear down the hard-working Gambill in the singles after he had lost to Belgium’s Olivier Rochus two days earlier.
“I just wanted to win today and I managed that, even though it was a difficult match,” he said.
“I am happy, though sometimes I was making a lot of mistakes. Jan-Michael is a good player, and he was a bit unlucky.”