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Romania stun hosts Australia in Hopman Cup opener

By Simon Cambers

PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Expectation turned to dismay for Australia on Saturday as the hosts were stunned 2-1 by Romania in the opening round-robin match of the Hopman Cup.

Lleyton Hewitt looked to have turned things in the top seeds' favor when he leveled the match at 1-1 with a 3-6 6-3 7-6 win over Victor Hanescu after Sorana Cirstea had shocked Sam Stosur 3-6 6-4 6-3.

But Cirstea and Hanescu then beat the Australians 7-5 6-1 in the deciding mixed doubles, leaving the host nation facing an uphill battle if they are to reach the final.

"For me today was a perfect day," Cirstea said. "Beating Sam for the first time and then going out to play mixed doubles for the first time with Victor, it was a great day."

World number 13 Stosur seemed completely in charge when she led by a set and 2-0 but the 45th-ranked Cirstea gradually fought her way into the match and eventually clinched a well-deserved victory.

"I think I started a little bit in awe but after that I got better and better," Cirstea said. "She was serving unbelievable and I was just thinking, try to get one break and hold my serve."

Former world number one Hewitt was also in trouble when he dropped the first set to Hanescu but the Australian battled back in typical style to level the match.

The third set was nip and tuck but as Hanescu tired, suffering from cramp in the latter stages, Hewitt romped through the deciding tiebreak 7-2 to clinch victory.

Despite their defeat, Hewitt was pleased with his first singles performance of the year.

"I hadn't really played a match for three months so the first match was always going to be tough," he said.

"Victor was hitting his serves very close to the lines so it was hard for me to get a rhythm. But I got better as the match went on.

"I had to hang in there. I tried to mix it up a bit and I started to serve better as the match went on as well."

(Editing by Justin Palmer)