Last gasp puts Poland into Hopman Cup final


Published — Friday 3 January 2014

Last update 2 January 2014 8:19 pm

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PERTH: Polish pair Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil edged past Australia on Thursday to scrape into the final of the mixed teams Hopman Cup.
In their country’s first appearance at the event, the Polish duo advanced to Saturday’s final with a 2-1 win over the host nation that left them as the only unbeaten team in their group.
But the Poles didn’t secure their berth in the title decider until the last gasp.
Earlier on Thursday, the Canadian team of Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic had kept their hopes of reaching the final alive, notching a 3-0 win over Italy after Flavia Pennetta was forced out by a wrist injury during the opening women’s singles rubber.
The Canadians remained in the hunt for the final as Poland and Australia split the singles with Bernard Tomic giving the host nation the lead in the tie with an easy win over Panfil and the fifth-ranked Radwanska then squaring the ledger by beating Samantha Stosur in three tight sets.
That meant the Poles needed to win at least one set in the deciding mixed doubles to reach the final.
They achieved that when they prevailed in a tight second set to level the match after the Australians had taken the first easily and threatened to run away with the match, and in doing so hand Canada a berth in the final.
Radwanska and Panfil then claimed the third set in a match tiebreak to win 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.
Although Poland were the nominal top seeds for the tournament, they were given little chance of glory when Jerzy Janowicz was a late withdrawal and little-known world No. 288 Panfil took his place.
Panfil is on the verge of the biggest payday of his career and could scarcely believe his luck.
“It is a great week for me. We play in the final ... it is a good evening,” he said.
Unbeaten in his first two singles matches in Perth, including an astounding win over world No. 11 Raonic, Panfil produced his worst performance of the week against Tomic, capitulating meekly as the Australian won 6-1, 6-4.
Despite nursing a shoulder problem, Radwanska then came from a set down to beat Stosur, who was again plagued by problems with her misfiring serve, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
That set the scene for a dramatic mixed doubles encounter.
With the Australian Open just over a week away, Pennetta was forced to withdraw from her singles match against Canadian teenager Bouchard when trailing 4-0, due to soreness in her right wrist.
Milos Raonic then beat Andreas Seppi in straight sets in the men’s singles and the mixed doubles was forfeited.
Pennetta had an operation on the same wrist in 2012, but was confident the latest setback was nothing more than inflammation.
The world No. 31 said the wrist was sore when she awoke on Thursday and she was close to withdrawing before the start of the match.
She had strapping applied after the third game but the injury was clearly affecting her serve and forehand.
The 31-year-old Italian is still expecting to play in Hobart next week to complete her preparations for the year’s opening Grand Slam, starting on January 13 in Melbourne.
“It’s the wrist that I had the operation on... Sometimes it gives me some problem, I hope it’s nothing too serious,” she said. “I was thinking maybe with some warm-up it would get better but it did not.
“I will have some treatment. Maybe I won’t play for one or two days to help because I think it’s more something like inflammation, it’s not like a tear or ligaments.” In the men’s singles, world No. 11 Raonic overpowered the out-of-sorts Seppi 6-2, 6-4.
Seppi, ranked 25th in the world, retired from his first match at the tournament due to illness, and lost both his subsequent singles outings in disappointing fashion.
Raonic was a shock loser to Panfil on Sunday and was pleased to put that result behind him.

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