The United States edged closer to another Hopman Cup final with a hard-earned 2-1 win over Italy in their Group B tie at the mixed teams Hopman Cup on Wednesday.
The result means the unseeded US pairing of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and John Isner have won both their ties, and they only need to win against Great Britain on Friday to reach Saturday’s final.
The USA is the most successful nation here, having won five Hopman Cups.
Although the Americans won both singles matches to secure the tie before the mixed doubles, both Mattek-Sands and Isner were stretched by Francesca Schiavone and Potito Starace.
Mattek-Sands held off a late rally from last year’s French Open champion in an upset result, winning 6-4, 6-4.
The 58th-ranked Mattek-Sands said her plan to deny Schiavone control of the game from the net worked.
“That was my goal going into this match, to get to the net before she did,” she said.
“She’s an aggressive player and I was just trying to take her high balls early and not get myself behind the baseline too far.”
Isner, ranked 19th, had his hands full with the 47th-ranked Starace, before eventually winning 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4.
Starace was within reach of an upset when he broke the towering Isner’s serve in the third set to lead 3-1, but the American broke straight back and then achieved a break of his own in the seventh game, eventually sealing the win with a trademark ace.
Isner said a place in the final beckoned for the Americans.
“We’re in the driver’s seat right now,” he said.
“Everybody is still alive so we can’t let up.”
The Italians kept their hopes of reaching the final alive by winning the dead mixed doubles rubber, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 10-3 in a match tiebreak.