Spain crush Australia to ease into Hopman final

By Simon Cambers

PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Spain eased past Australia to book their place in the final of the Hopman Cup on Thursday, dashing any hopes the hosts had of advancing with an emphatic 3-0 whitewash.

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez trounced Sam Stosur 6-4 6-1 in the opening singles rubber before Tommy Robredo outplayed Lleyton Hewitt 6-2 6-4 to secure a third straight victory for the unbeaten Spaniards.

The pair then teamed up to win the mixed doubles 6-3 3-6 10-7 to finish top of Group A without losing a match.

Spain, winners of the mixed team event in 1990 and 2002, will take on the winners of the other round-robin group. With one match remaining apiece, Britain lead the race in Group B although Russia and Kazakhstan remain in contention.

Australia had to win every set to reach the final but their slim hopes evaporated almost immediately when Martinez Sanchez won the first set against Stosur.

The left-handed Spaniard, ranked a career-high 26, produced a clever mix of touch shots and angles and Stosur's only glimmer of hope came when she held a break point to get back on level terms when trailing 5-4 in the opener.

However, Martinez Sanchez saw out the set and then cruised through the second against a deflated Stosur to seal Spain's place in another Hopman Cup final.

PERFECT PREPARATION

"It's not easy to play like this at the beginning of the season but I think I did (so) much work in the off-season, I suffered, so now I have my game," Martinez Sanchez told reporters.

"I think this tournament is perfect preparation for me for the Australian Open."

Hewitt struggled badly on serve at the start of his match with Robredo and the Spaniard eased through the first set.

Former world number one Hewitt, who had surgery on his right hip in 2008 but who has climbed back to a ranking of 22, had treatment on his lower back at the end of the first set.

His movement did not seem impaired but Robredo maintained his concentration, breaking in the ninth game of the second set and serving out with ease to clinch victory.

Robredo already owns one diamond encrusted ball -- the trophy for the winners at the Hopman Cup -- and the Spaniard said he was keen to double his collection.

"Because Maria Jose's playing that good I have to do my best because then we are very close to that diamond ball," he said.

In Thursday's other Group A match, American Melanie Oudin beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3, but an injury to Victor Hanescu meant the rest of the tie was canceled with the U.S. awarded a 3-0 victory.

(Editing by John O'Brien)