British set for first Hopman Cup final

PERTH: Only Russia separates Great Britain from a historic berth in the Hopman Cup final, with Andy Murray and Laura Robson the only unbeaten Group B nation in the mixed teams contest Wednesday.

The British pairing of Murray and Robson beat Germany 2-1 and a victory over the Russians Igor Andreev and Elena Dementieva on Friday would ensure a place in the final on Saturday.

However, should the British slip up, either the Russians or qualifier Kazakhstan, which upset Russia on Wednesday, could sneak in.

It is only the fourth time Great Britain has played at the Hopman Cup and the first time since 1992, when represented by Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates.

With Murray looking very sharp early in the new season and Robson emerging as another genuinely exciting prospect for British tennis, the third seeds secured the tie against Germany in the deciding mixed doubles rubber, easily accounting for Sabine Lisicki and Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 6-2.

Murray stepped up his preparation for the upcoming Australian Open later this month by lifting his game another notch to trounce Kohlschreiber in straight sets in the men's singles, 6-4, 6-1, in under an hour.

The fourth-ranked Scot displayed his full repertoire of shots on both sides in an ominous performance for his Melbourne rivals.

Murray, who chose the Hopman Cup over defending his title in Doha to give himself the best possible chance of a maiden grand slam singles title in Melbourne, has dropped just nine games in two singles matches here.

Unbeaten in four Hopman Cup matches, two in mixed doubles and two in singles, Murray said the tournament was "perfect preparation" for the Australian Open.

Having admitted he was slightly hampered by a hip problem against Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev, Murray was delighted with his form in beating Kohlschreiber.

"I served really well and didn't really give him too many chances on my serve," Murray said.

"I think that was the main difference, he didn't make too many first serves and I was able to capitalise."

Kohlschreiber was similarly impressed, saying: "He's getting hot for the Australian Open... He kicked my ass today."

Murray was ably assisted in the doubles by the 15-year-old Robson, the former junior Wimbledon champion confirming she had a great future with her impressive form in both the singles and doubles.

Robson was beaten in straight sets by Lisicki, but made the emerging German work overtime for the 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win.

The young Englishwoman actually served for the first set, before the world No.22 steadied.

In the doubles, Robson played almost faultless tennis, volleying and serving well and hitting a number of brilliant passing shots.

The precocious teenager said she played better than in the opening tie, but added that there was still plenty of room for improvement.

"I still think I can play better," she said.

Kazakhstan, which qualified for the tournament by winning the Asia Hopman Cup, caused a major boilover in beating Russia 2-1, with world No.133 Golubev shocking the much higher ranked Andreev in the men's singles in straight sets after Elena Dementieva had disposed of Yaroslava Shvedova.

The underdogs then beat the Russians in the deciding mixed doubles to keep their Hopman Cup hopes alive.