Schiavone fights back to lift Italy
Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone showed her fighting qualities as Italy beat Germany 2-1 at the Hopman Cup on Wednesday.
Needing to win her singles match to keep Italy alive in the tie and the mixed-teams tournament, the world number 35 was a set and a break down while battling stomach pain against little-known German Tatjana Malek.
But she rallied determinedly to win in three sets.
Malek arrived from Miami to replace the injured Andrea Petkovic in the tournament less than 12 hours before her match.
But the German recovered from a shaky start to stun her more fancied opponent in the first set.
Things were going to script when Schiavone won the first three games of the match, but the 112th-ranked Malek won the next eight games in succession as the veteran made a string of uncharacteristic, and often inexplicable, errors.
Schiavone's woes were summed up by the simple forehand error that handed the German the first set.
Just when an upset loomed, the 32-year-old Schiavone was able to claw her way back into the match as fatigue appeared to start affecting Malek.
Although she was well down on her best form, Schiavone was able to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. "It was not easy today," she acknowledged afterwards.
Schiavone and teammate Andreas Seppi then clinched the tie with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Tommy Haas and Malek in the mixed doubles.
Haas had given the Germans the lead in the tie with a hard-fought straight-sets win over Seppi, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7).
Seppi served for the first set and had three set points in the second, but it was the German who won the crucial points to take the match.
Haas's determined hustle paid off on match point, when his dogged defensive work opened up the opportunity for the forehand winner that sealed the win.
The 34-year-old admitted the result could have gone either way. "It was a really tight match," he said.
"I think we can both be happy, it was a very high-quality match. I was pleased with how I played the big points today."