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Venus inspires US to unlikely triumph

ESPN staff
January 1, 2013 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
Venus Williams pulled a win out of the fire against Mathilde Johansson © Getty Images
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The United States showed they should never be ruled out at the Hopman Cup on Tuesday, as Venus Williams helped mastermind a come-from-behind victory against France that concluded in dramatic fashion.

Having seen John Isner beaten comfortably by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening match of the tie, 6-2 6-3, it looked all over for the US when Williams dropped the first set in her singles match with Mathilde Johansson.

But Williams is not an eight-time grand slam champion for nothing, and she dug deep into her reserves of mental resilience and shot-making to conjure up an impressive comeback, coming from behind in the second stanza to set up a deciding set - before again holding her nerve in that one to grind out a 3-6 7-5 6-4 triumph that sent the tie to the final doubles.

"Mathilde's a tough player. She hits the ball hard and low, and I'm tall so it's hard to get low," Williams said. "I was just thinking, at least if I'm going to lose this match, I was going to try to work on my game. In the end, I got a win for the US."

The doubles contest between the four participants closely mirrored the women's singles meeting that had preceded it, as Tsonga and Johansson gelled quicker to clinch the opening set, before Isner and Williams rallied back in the second set to keep their own hopes alive.

That sent the contest to a super-tiebreak, with Isner's serve proving a particularly potent weapon as the US finally put the finishing touches to a remarkable 5-7(5) 6-2 10-8 triumph.

Happy to claim the victory, Isner insisted his Australian Open preparations remained on course - despite successive singles losses to Kevin Anderson and Tsonga for the world No. 14.

"Normally it takes me a while to get going. I'm not worried about it," Isner said. "I remember about three years ago when I first played this event, I didn't play so well here but I won the next tournament.

"I have time to get ready and I'm confident going into the season. I've put in good work during the off-season.

"It certainly wasn't my best performance [against Tsonga]. I was missing a lot of shots I would have liked to have made. But I'm not freaking out about it."

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