US, France begin with Hopman Cup wins
John Isner began his season with a rare away win, firing 16 aces in helping six-time Hopman Cup champion the US to a 3-0 victory over holder Spain on Monday.
Last season, the home-loving all-American had claimed only nine of his 39 victories outside of the US, much preferring to stay in his cultural comfort zone. The number 14, who stands 2.08 metres tall, buried memories of last year's knee injury withdrawal in Perth as he and Sloane Stephens took an opening victory at the eight-nation tournament.
Spain has now lost both of its 2014 group ties after winning the title last January.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga shook off jet-lag after arriving from Abu Dhabi only a day before his match, combining with Alize Cornet to send France past the Czech Republic with Radek Stepanek and Petra Kvitova, 2-1 with a decisive mixed doubles win, 6-1, 6-3.
Isner's serve proved to be too much for Spanish opponent Daniel Munoz De La Nava, who lost 6-3, 6-4 against the American's huge weapon.
"It's pretty tough because he's serving like an animal. He's changing the serve all the time. All directions. It's tough to return, but I tried my best," said the 194th-ranked Spanish journeyman.
Stephens beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-1 as the US finished off in the mixed doubles 4-6, 6-0, 10-4 (match tiebreak). Isner said that he is off to a good start for the new season.
"It was a pretty good first match after not playing one for a long time. I"m fortunate to be back here. I'm very happy with how I played today, thought I did not get off to the best start."
Stephens was excited after making her Hopman debut. "I've always wanted to play here, I've heard so much about it," said the WTA number 12, aged 20, who made her name a year ago in Melbourne when she beat Serena Williams.
"I played solid for my first match of the year. It was hot out there (under the open roof of the Perth arena) but I kept my composure. I'm happy with how I played."
Tsonga started the French off with a defeat of Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-4 but Czech Kvitova overcame more than 50 unforced errors to beat Cornet 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 in two and a quarter hours. "She came back and the second set and was really fighting," said the winner.
"This was a really tough match for the second one of the season. I tried to play aggressive on the important points but could not always manage.
"But I won, so that's the important thing right now." Tsonga was still struggling with his fitness in his win over Stepanek. "It was no easy match due to jet-lag. I was tired but we played some good tennis, It's never easy to play Radek.
"I'm very happy to go through this one because, I'm just glad to finish in two sets."