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Molik exhibits good form to down Sanchez-Vicario
By PERTH
 
Spain's former world No.1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario was beaten by Alicia Molik in a shock Hopman Cup result at the Burswood Dome on Thursday night.

In what was supposed to be a warm-up for Sanchez-Vicario, 30, currently ranked 18th, for Saturday's final of the eight-nation contest, the 20-year-old Molik (47th) won 2-6 6-3 6-4 in 110 minutes.

The women's singles of the scheduled Australia-Spain tie was played as an exhibition match after Australia's withdrawal from the million dollar contest when the home country's world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt was diagnosed with chickenpox and ordered to rest for several days.

The sidelining of Hewitt meant that Spain, Australia's strongest opponent in Group B, automatically swept into the final after beating Argentina (Paola Suarez and Mariano Zabaleta) and Switzerland (Miroslava Vavrinec and Roger Federer), both 3-0, earlier in the tournament.

Tournament organisers decided to keep faith with a sell-out crowd and provide Sanchez-Vicario with another workout by playing the women's singles as scheduled, even though the men's singles and mixed doubles could not go ahead.

But little went right for the Spaniard after she had clinched the first set convincingly in 29 minutes.

Molik fought back doggedly, using her height and long reach to make a series of superb returns which frustrated Sanchez-Vicario.

"That is certainly up there with my very best wins," Molik said.

"It is an awful shame that Lleyton and I cannot take part in the final.

"Frankly, I had thought I was down and out tonight before I started to play some really good tennis. I just chipped away, and I got there."

Sanchez-Vicario had been aiming to gather her third singles victory in five days, following straight sets wins over Suarez and Vavrinec.

Spain's opponents in the $360,000 final will be decided on Friday.

The three contenders are Belgium (Kim Clijsters, Xavier Malisse), the United States (Monica Seles, Jan-Michael Gambill) and Italy (Francesca Schiavone, Davide Sanguinetti).

In crucial matches, Belgium plays the United States and Italy comes up against France (Virginie Razzano, Arnaud Clement).

Spain -- for whom Tommy Robredo is partnering Sanchez-Vicario -- is hoping to become the first country to win the Hopman Cup twice.

The Spaniards snatched the trophy for the first time in 1990 when Sanchez-Vicario and brother Emilio beat Americans Pam Shriver and John McEnroe 2-1 in the final.