KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Australia and Japan celebrated perfect 5-0 Davis Cup victories yesterday but India paid the price for fielding a second-string team following a dispute involving their top players.
Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt led Australia’s charge into the second round of Asia/Oceania Group I with a singles and doubles win, with Matthew Ebden and Marinko Matosevic also winning their singles matches against Taiwan.
Japan had newly promoted Indonesia eyeing a quick return to Group II when Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito spearheaded a straightforward win in Tokyo.
Wu Di, who became the first Chinese man to play a Grand Slam main draw at last month’s Australian Open, recovered some pride for his country in yesterday’s singles but it wasn’t enough to stop a comprehensive 4-1 defeat by Uzbekistan.
And India, without Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna after a row over pay and conditions, slumped to a 4-1 loss against South Korea to end their hopes for another year.
In the second round in April, Australia will play Uzbekistan and Japan take on arch-rivals South Korea for a place in September’s World Group playoffs.
China face Taiwan and India will play Indonesia in the first round playoffs, with the losers going into a relegation tie to decide which team drops down to Group II next season.
Australia are likely to face a debate over the inclusion of wayward star Bernard Tomic, who was kept out of the first round team over problems with his behavior.
Kirilenko clinches Pattaya Open title
In Pattaya, Thailand, Maria Kirilenko defeated Germany’s Sabine Lisicki 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) to claim the Pattaya Open title in a tension-filled final yesterday.
The Russian No. 2 seed took the title in two hours 37 minutes at the end of a fluctuating final set during which both players served for victory.
It is the sixth title of her career and her first since 2008.
Since her last tournament victory she has lost four finals, including the 2012 Pattaya final to Daniela Hantuchova.
“I had a birthday before the tournament started and had a cake in my room with some candles, and I made a wish,” said Kirilenko, who turned 26 on January 25.
“The wish was to win this tournament and the wish came true.”
It was a high quality final in which both players served well, hit deep groundstrokes, were not afraid to come to the net and moved their opponent all around the court.
Lisicki also used the dropshot to good effect.
After an early exchange of breaks fifth-seeded Lisicki sneaked the opening set by breaking at 6-5 when Kirilenko put a forehand wide, and she had an opportunity to take control when she held three break points for a 2-0 lead in the second.
Instead, it was Kirilenko who dominated much of the next hour, sweeping the next nine games to win the second set and build a 3-0 lead in the third.
Lisicki held her next service game with three aces as she staged a late revival, and she then saved two match points on her own serve when down 5-2.
Kirilenko then faltered, failing to serve out the match at 5-3 and allowing Lisicki to level at 5-5.
The next two games went against serve, as Lisicki broke to lead 6-5 but then dropped her own serve at love as she served for the match and Kirilenko then dominated the tiebreak.
Barthel defeats top seed Errani to win Paris Open
In Paris, Germany’s Mona Barthel clinched her second WTA title by beating top seed Sara Errani 7-5 7-6 in a hard-fought final at the Paris Open yesterday.
The 22-year-old Barthel, ranked 45, battled for one hour and 56 minutes before sealing the victory with her 53rd winner of the day on her fourth match point.
World number seven Errani, bidding for her seventh singles title, suffered a second disappointment in Paris, after losing to Maria Sharapova in last year’s French Open final.
Barthel, who defeated French crowd favorites Marion Bartoli and Kristina Mladenovic on her way to the final, seemed to be cruising to victory when she broke her opponent’s serve to lead 2-0 in the second set.
She held on to lead 5-2 but the resilient Errani fought back by taking advantage of the German’s nervousness, only to surrender in the decisive tie-break.