PERTH - France won their first Hopman Cup title on Saturday night, taking a thrilling decider against Poland. The two countries split the singles rubbers at the mixed teams tournament, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beating Grzegorz Panfil and Agnieszka Radwanska then edging past Alize Cornet in an epic battle. The French then claimed the tie with a 6-0, 6-2 win in the mixed doubles rubber. France had previously been beaten in the 1998 and 2012 finals.
No player during the tournament showed more determination to win than Cornet and she was understandably thrilled to notch her country's first win in the tournament. "We made history today and France finally won the Hopman Cup," she said. "I think we deserved it, we played a great week." Tsonga, the world number 10, said Cornet had a future in Hollywood after her theatrics on court, including jumping into his arms after the winning point.
He was pleased with his form heading towards the Australian Open, finishing unbeaten in singles this week and said winning the event was the icing on the cake "It is always great to hold a trophy," he said.
Although Panfil was on the wrong side of the ledger in the final, the tournament was still the highlight of his career. Ranked 288th in the world, he beat two top 30 players in Milos Raonic and Andreas Seppi, and pocketed easily the biggest pay cheque of his career.
The 26-year-old was a late replacement for countryman Jerzy Janowicz in the tournament. He had career prizemoney of US$137,936, and collected AUS$90,000 ($81,000)for losing the final. After Tsonga won his singles match in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, Radwanska levelled the final with a gruelling win over Cornet in a high-intensity match with many long rallies.
The world number five survived a marathon 80-minute second set, during which she held a match point, before the Frenchwoman finally squared the match in the tiebreak with her fifth set point. However, Cornet had run herself to the point of exhaustion, at one stage suffering the ignominy of incurring a time penalty as she struggled to regain her breath following yet another long rally.
She tired in the final set, allowing Radwanska to prevail in two hours and 33 minutes, 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, in one of the most remarkable matches ever seen at the mixed teams tournament. Despite the vast chasm in their rankings, Tsonga had his hands full with the little-known Panfil. Tsonga created numerous break points, converting just two of 14, but got a shock when Panfil capitalised on his only opportunity to break in the eighth game of the second set, levelling the match in the process. However, Tsonga steadied in the decider to maintain his unbeaten record in seven singles matches in Perth.