Tennis-Gambill secures U.S. Hopman win By Ossian Shine
PERTH, Australia, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Jan-Michael Gambill battled past Australian Open runner-up Arnaud Clement 6-4 6-4 on Monday to give the top-seeded U.S. a winning 2-0 lead over France in the XIV Hopman Cup.
Gambill, ranked 21 in the world, had to dig deep to beat the 17th-ranked Clement and produced his best tennis in the Group A clash.
"He's a scrapper...he's always played like that," Gambill smiled afterwards.
"I got a little tentative towards the end but it was a great match to play. I think I have a chance to beat anybody when I am playing well its great to start with a win."
Earlier Monica Seles out-punched France's Virginie Razzano 6-3 6-4 in the first singles of the mixed team event.
Gambill started in fine form, breaking the Australian Open runner-up in the first game with some powerful hitting from the back of the court and deft volleying.
Clement broke back immediately, using his lightning speed to chase down balls, to set up an intriguing contest at the Burswood Dome.
Another break for the American in the seventh game proved decisive as Gambill three games later served out the set 6-4 with two thumping aces.
The flamboyantly-dressed Clement used the changeover to change his bandana, yellow glasses and yellow shirt to a bright red outfit with matching red sunglasses.
But Gambill continued where he had left off finding superb depth with his unorthodox double-handed forehand and backhand.
The American got the breakthrough in the third game when Clement misjudged and left a passing shot which drifted inside the line and then dumped a forehand into the net to lose serve.
Another break two games later left Gambill 4-1 ahead and firmly in control. He relaxed his grip, though, and handed Clement a break as the Frenchman clawed his way back from 5-1 down to 5-4 down. But Gambill refused to be beaten and finally served out 6-4.
"I served really well I'm pleased about that and looking forward to getting some more matches under my belt," he said.
Seles needed six games to warm up at the Western Australian venue but once she got into her stride never gave Razzano at 18-years-old, 10 years her junior a chance.
"I knew that would be tough, and it was," she said afterwards.
"She was a number one ranked junior in the world and has the potential to be a top player so I knew it would be hard."
Razzano's game plan was to keep Seles on the move and prevent her from working her way into rallies, and initially it worked as the French number five broke her twice early in the set.
But Razzano was unable to hold her own serve as Seles repeatedly stepped into the return and thumped winners into the corners.
Seles finally got her swinging left hand serve working in the seventh game and held comfortably for a 4-3 lead before breaking again and then serving out for the opening set, clinching it with an ace after 29 minutes.
The American world number 10 broke her opponent immediately in the second set and then held for a 2-0 lead as she took a grip of the match.
Razzano continued slapping away from the back of the court, though, and got the break back in the eighth game with a backhand screamer down the line which left Seles staring in disbelief.
But the American broke back straight away, tempting Razzano to overstretch herself and the Frenchwoman did, unnecessarily netting a simple forehand on breakpoint by trying to hit too hard.
Seles, winner of Hopman Cup III when she represented her country of birth Yugoslavia with Goran Prpic, made no mistake serving for the match, sealing victory in 62 minutes.
Gambill and Seles team up to play the French pair in the remaining mixed doubles.