Seles leads US to opening sweep

PERTH, Australia — Monica Seles returned to the Hopman Cup after a 10-year absence Monday, leading the United States to a 3-0 victory over Slovakia in the mixed-teams tournament.

Seles played for Yugoslavia in 1991 and is the first player to represent two countries in this tuneup for the Australian Open.

She beat Karina Habsudova 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, and teammate Jan-Michael Gambill defeated Dominik Hrbaty 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. In mixed doubles, Seles-Gambill downed Habsudova-Hrbaty 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

“I was so sluggish and my goal was just to wake up and get some points going, get my feet moving,” Seles said.

The Americans, seeded third, are in Group B with Slovakia, Russia and Belgium.

Seles had a more successful day than Marat Safin, the Russian ranked No. 2 in the world. The U.S. Open champion was upset by little-known Belgian Olivier Rochus 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

That gave Belgium the decision over Russia in the round-robin event following Kim Clijsters’ 6-1, 6-4 win over Elena Likhovtseva. Safin and Likhovtseva teamed for a 6-3, 7-6, (3) doubles victory over Clijsters and Rochus, but the Belgians won 2-1.

Seles started slowly, struggling to find her range. She faced three break points to go down 3-0 before coming back. At 1-3, she won 16 of the next 17 points to go up 5-3.

“I was very flat coming out. … I couldn’t find my rhythm at all,” Seles said.

Rochuso lost to 164th-ranked Takao Suzuki on Sunday as Belgium beat Japan to qualify for the competition. He almost decided not to make the trip to Perth after injuring his wrist.

I just tried to play and enjoy,'' he said.And in the first tournament of the year it’s good for me to play like this and to beat Safin.”

On Tuesday, Australia plays defending champion South Africa, and Slovakia faces Belgium.