Ukraine secured a place in the final of the Hopman Cup after defeating Australia Gold 2-1 in Perth, which marked Lleyton Hewitt’s last appearance in the competition before retirement.
Australia Gold needed to win the tie to keep hopes of progress alive following defeat by the Czech Republic in Sunday’s opening Group A contest.
However, Ukraine, who last reached the final in 1995, recorded victories in both singles matches for Elina Svitolina and Alexandr Dolgopolov, which secured a 100 per cent record from the round-robin stage.
Hewitt, though, bowed out with a win alongside Jarmila Wolfe in the mixed-doubles dead rubber.
Earlier, Svitolina, the world No 19, had put Ukraine ahead after beating Wolfe 6-3, 6-3.
While veteran two-time Grand Slam winner Hewitt, appearing in Perth for the eighth and last time, produced a strong start to the second fixture by taking the opening set, Dolgopolov responded to close out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
The 34-year-old was, however, at least able to secure a fitting send-off to cheer the home crowd, as he and Wolfe won the mixed doubles 3-6, 7-5, 10-5. “I haven’t quite been able to win the Hopman Cup, but I have had a lot of fun here over the years,” Hewitt said afterwards courtside.
“The big picture is obviously the Australian Open. That is where I want to be playing my best tennis, and this week has been the perfect preparation for that.
“I still feel like I can match it with the best guys in the world out there.”
Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon champion who is to hang up his racket after the Melbourne Grand Slam tournament, added: “It was another good hit-out today. I felt in patches I played really good tennis.
“I have never played Alexandr before [and] he is a tough guy to really get a read on because he plays so many funky shots out there.”
Dolgopolov hopes he and Svitolina can now maintain their form into tomorrow’s final.
“It means a lot, I get a bit more nervous [playing for Ukraine] than in my own tournaments, and the whole country is watching. There is just one match left now and that’s the final,” the 27-year-old said.
Yesterday’s evening Group A match in the Perth Arena saw the United States defeat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the deciding mixed doubles.
Jack Sock came from behind to beat Jiri Vesely 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) in the first rubber, only for Karolina Pliskova to do the same as she saw off Vicky Duval, who had replaced the injured Serena Williams in the American team, also in three sets, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The mixed doubles went the distance, with the USA claiming the opening set on a tie-break, before the Czechs levelled, however Sock and Duval won through 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 10-7 to avoid three straight defeats.
Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova will be out to send Australia Green into the final from Group B when they meet France today, having won their opening two ties against Germany and Great Britain.
Britain’s hopes of reaching the final now depend on a big win for Andy Murray and Heather Watson against Germany today, coupled with Australia Green losing heavily to France.
l Despite being broken four times, Rafael Nadal managed to make his way into the Qatar Open semi-finals by beating Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 yesterday.
Nadal lost his serve on all four break points he faced against the 79th-ranked Kuznetsov. The second-seeded Spaniard broke his opponent’s serve five times in ten attempts.
Nadal will next play Illya Marchenko in the semi-finals. The Ukrainian, who beat David Ferrer in the first round, defeated seventh-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France 6-3, 7-6 (3).