Hungarians warm to Hopman Cup task
By Russell Reid
HUNGARY'S Attila Savolt and Petra Mandula need look no further than European neighbour the Slovak Republic for inspiration to succeed in their debut at the Hyundai Hopman Cup.
Slovakians Karol Kucera and Karina Habsudova advanced from the qualifying tie and went on to win the 10th Perth mixed teams international in 1998.
Mandula and Savolt will clash with Canadians Frank Dancevic and Maureen Drake in the tournament play-off on Saturday to see who takes the last spot in the draw for Hopman Cup XVI at the Burswood Dome.
The winners will take their place in Group B with No. 2 seed Australia (Lleyton Hewitt/Alicia Molik), No. 3 seed Belgium (Xavier Malisse/Kim Clijsters) and the unseeded Slovak Republic (Kucera/Daniela Hantuchova).
The Hungarians arrived late on Monday night from sub-zero temperatures in their homeland.
Savolt is ranked No. 178 on the men's tour but boasts some good wins in 2003. The 27-year-old's best result was at the French Open in June when he beat players ranked above him - Sweden's Andreas Vinciguerra (No. 76) and Russia's Mikhail Youzhny (39) - on the way to a third-round loss against Argentina's Guillermo Coria (No. 5).
Savolt said coming to Perth early would help the pair adapt to the climate and boost Hungary's chances of winning.
"Our first goal is to win on Saturday and then we would have three very good matches in the main draw," Savolt said.
Mandula improved her ranking from 90 at the start of the year to a career-high 40 by season's end.
The 25-year-old, from Budapest, claimed some big scalps, twice beating Russian Anastasia Myskina.
Mandula beat the world No. 7 in the French Open in June on the way to the round of 16 where she lost in three sets to American Chanda Rubin.
She said the Hopman Cup was a good opportunity to blow out post-Christmas cobwebs and prepare for the upcoming Australian events.