By Ossian Shine
PERTH, Australia (Reuters) – Monica Seles put one hand on the Hopman Cup on Saturday when she beat Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1 7-6 in the first singles match of the final.
Jan-Michael Gambill will secure a U.S. victory in the Burswood Dome if he beats Tommy Robredo in the second singles. The U.S. were runners-up last year.
Both Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario are bidding to become the first player to win the mixed team event twice.
Sanchez-Vicario won the tournament with brother Emilio in 1990 while the following year Seles, representing her country of birth Yugoslavia, won with Goran Prpic.
I had to play really well,'' Seles smiled afterwards as she waited for Gambill's match to begin.She got more and more comfortable and harder to break as the match went on.
“Arantxa is a very good friend of mine and we are both trying to win this tournament for a second time.
“But I am very happy to have won.”
Heading into the match Seles held a 19-3 head-to-head lead over the Spanish 30-year-old and Seles’s superiority was evident in the opening set.
Darting around the court, blasting double-fisted winners she reeled off five games in a row to win the opening set 6-1 in just 19 minutes.
But Sanchez-Vicario has built a career on her determination and bounced straight back in the battle of former world number ones.
Mixing up rallies with high, looping groundstrokes and forays to the net, Sanchez-Vicario matched her 28-year-old opponent point for point until Seles broke to lead 6-5.
But, serving for the match, Seles’s concentration wavered and Sanchez-Vicario broke back to love to force a tiebreak.
Seles sealed the win on her third match point when the Spaniard floated a backhand wide.