Swiss Miss sets up showdown with U.S. – and Seles

PERTH- Roger Federer and Martina Hingis brushed aside defending champions South Africa in the mixed doubles decider yesterday to take top seeds Switzerland into a Hopman Cup final against the United States.

World number one Hingis, in superb form, gave Switzerland a perfect start by breaking Amanda Coetzer’s serve six times in a 47-minute 6-1, 6-0 trouncing. But Wayne Ferreira levelled the crunch group A tie with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Federer in the men’s singles.

Federer and Hingis then joined forces to triumph 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles rubber, leaving South Africa frustrated in their bid to become the first nation to retain the trophy. Both Switzerland and South Africa had won their previous two group ties.

Today’s final provides the appetising prospect of an early-season women’s singles encounter between Hingis and world number four Monica Seles. Hingis has a 12-2 win-loss record against Seles, dating back to 1996. Hingis won their last encounter at the WTA Tour Chase championships in New York in November in the deciding set.

“Perhaps the way Monica plays suits my game,” said Hingis. “I will not change anything in my approach to playing her.”

Hingis has dropped just five games in her three singles rubbers at the Burswood Dome, and she is the early favourite to claim the Australian Open title in Melbourne, when the year’s first Grand Slam begins on January 15.

Both Hingis and Coetzer exchanged breaks of serve in the opening three games, before Hingis raced away with the next 10 to take the match.

It was Coetzer’s heaviest defeat against the five times Grand Slam champion, and her miserable day was completed when her serve was broken four times in the doubles rubber – meaning she had failed to hold serve all day.

By contrast, Hingis, a beaten Hopman Cup finalist alongside Marc Rosset in 1996, said: “I have no complaints with the way I am playing at the moment. In the past, I have been up and down with my form, but now I feel I can maintain my level of play for some time. The increase in speed on my serve is particularly pleasing. That has definitely been one of the aspects of my game I have concentrated on.”

Coetzer, ranked 11 in the world, was angered by two line calls that went against her in the second and third games of the first set, but was honest in her ultimate appraisal. “I just wasn’t able to get into the match,” she said. “I was outclassed.”

Ferreira enjoyed an upturn in personal fortunes despite the team defeat. He had lost his opening two singles rubbers, but atoned by retrieving a 2-0 deficit in the final set to beat Federer.

“It was important for my confidence heading towards a Grand Slam,” said Ferreira. “My body and fitness has not always allowed me to do as well as I might at the Grand Slams, but I am determined to change that this year.”

Federer, who practises with Ferreira regularly and who will meet Jan-Michael Gambill in the men’s singles of the final, said: “I think Wayne wanted to show me that, as a young player on the circuit, you have to earn your success all the time. He played a great match and I just lost concentration at the wrong time – especially in the final set.”

Switzerland have won the Hopman Cup once before. In 1992, Jacob Hlasek and Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere defeated the former Czechoslovakia. The US have appeared in the final on three occasions, winning in 1997 with victory over South Africa.