SPORTS

Greek tennis to make its debut at Hopman Cup against Italian team

LONDON (Reuters) – Greece will make its Hopman Cup debut when the season-opening team event kicks off next month. The news was made official by the International Tennis Federation earlier this week. Twenty-one-year-old Vassilis Mazarakis and 19-year-old Eleni Danilidou will tackle the Italian team of Davide Sanguinetti and Francesca Schiavone in a playoff match on December 29 to determine the eighth team in the main event at Burswood Dome in Perth, Western Australia. The Greek challenge is led by a player who has already tasted success in Australia. The 166th-ranked Mazarakis won the Australian Unity WA Open Challenger in March, beating British Davis Cup player Jamie Delgado in straight sets at Perth’s State Tennis Center. Mazarakis is partnered by Danilidou, the winner of the junior doubles title at the 1999 Australian Open with Virginie Razzano, who is representing France at this year’s Hopman Cup. Danilidou, ranked at 82 on the women’s tour, has played 16 events in 2001 with a win/loss of 9-12 in singles matches. She reached the third round at the US Open, defeating Australian Rachel McQuillan before running up against Monica Seles. Mazarakis has played Challenger events for much of the year, winning at Sofia, Bulgaria, in September, and reaching the finals at Brindisi, Italy in August, and again in September, at Kamnik, Slovenia. The Greek number one has already played in four Davis Cup ties, winning four of his seven singles matches. The Hopman Cup features eight nations of two players each – one man and one woman. The event – won last year by the Swiss pairing of Martina Hingis and Roger Federer takes place from December 29 to January 5. The United States are favorites for the silverware this time around, represented by Monica Seles and Jan-Michael Gambill. Australian hopes rest on US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing the event for the first time. He is paired with 47th-ranked Alicia Molik. Hewitt’s girlfriend Kim Clijsters is representing Belgium and stands a good chance of being teamed up with rising prospect Xavier Malisse. The other teams are Spain, Argentina, France and Switzerland.