Andy Murray and Heather Watson edged out of cup final race

Heather Watson and Andy Murray celebrate victory yesterday. Picture: Getty

Heather Watson and Andy Murray celebrate victory yesterday. Picture: Getty

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British duo Andy Murray and Heather Watson were denied a place in the Hopman Cup final as Australia Green edged out France in a tense finish.

Murray and Watson had put pressure on Australia by beating Germany 3-0 in Perth.

That meant the Australian duo of Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova needed to beat France to secure their place in the final.

Kyrgios comfortably defeated Kenny De Schepper but Gavrilova lost to Caroline Garcia and the mixed doubles went to a deciding match tie-break.

It was close all the way through but Gavrilova pulled off a brilliant volley to save a French match point at 9-8 and they won three points in a row to clinch victory.

Their 11-9 success was a repeat of the deciding tie-break they won against Britain on Wednesday, which ultimately proved the difference between the sides.

Nevertheless, Murray and Watson’s performance against Germany saw them finish the tournament on a positive note.

Watson had impressed in beating Gavrilova on Wednesday and claimed a notable scalp with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sabine Lisicki. She made the decisive break at 4-3 in the first set before serving it out to 15. The second set was more comfortable for Watson, who broke twice to seal the rubber.

Murray then saw off highly-rated teenager Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 before the British pair went on to win the mixed doubles by the same scoreline. Australia will play Ukraine in the final, with Kyrgios and Gavrilova set to take on Alexandr Dolgopolov and Elina Svitolina.

Elsewhere, Roger Federer overcame a stern challenge from Grigor Dimitrov to reach the semi-finals of the Brisbane International. He dropped the second set but Dimitrov did not serve well enough in the decider and Federer took advantage to win 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4. The Swiss next meets rising star Dominic Thiem, who upset third seed Marin Cilic 2-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4.

The other semi-final will pit Canada’s Milos Raonic against Australian Bernard Tomic, who delighted the home fans with a 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory over second seed Kei Nishikori.

Raonic is through to the last four for the second consecutive year thanks to a 6-4 6-4 win over Frenchman Lucas Pouille. The women’s final will be between Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber.

Azarenka’s form suggests she could be a contender for the biggest prizes this year and she ended the run of young American Samantha Crawford with an emphatic 6-0 6-3 win.

Fourth-seed Kerber also produced an impressive display to reach the final. The German was too consistent for sixth seed Carla Suarez Navarro in a 6-2 6-3 victory.

In India, Aljaz Bedene continued his fine run at the Chennai Open with victory over Indian wildcard Ramkumar Ramanathan to reach the semi-finals.

The British No 2 surprisingly made the final 12 months ago, losing to Stan Wawrinka and he has given himself a chance to match that or even go one better. Bedene has had to battle, coming from a set down for the second match in a row to win 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 6-3.

l Great Britain have been handed a favourable draw for the Fed Cup group stage next month.

Judy Murray’s team will play Georgia and South Africa in their pool in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I round-robin tournament in Israel starting on 3 February.

Murray has named a six-strong squad of Johanna Konta, Heather Watson, Laura Robson, teenager Katie Swan and doubles players Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith, with the final four to be confirmed next month.

Neither Georgia nor South Africa has a player ranked in the top 200, so Britain will be confident of winning the group.

Should they do so, they would compete against the winner of Group D – made up of Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria and Latvia – for a place in the World Group II play-offs in April.

Britain have twice made the play-offs under Murray’s captaincy, losing to Sweden in 2012 and Argentina in 2013.

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