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Molik muscles Australia into lead

By Ossian ShinePERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Australia's Alicia Molik has got the hosts off to a flying start at the XIV Hopman Cup, beating Switzerland's Miroslava Vavrinec 6-3 6-4.

World number one Lleyton Hewitt tackles Roger Federer in the second singles of the best-of-three clash later at the Burswood Dome.Defending champions Switzerland won the mixed team event last time largely on the strength of their women's number one Martina Hingis.But with the inexperienced Vavrinec partnering Federer this time, their crown looks decidedly unsteady.

Molik came out swinging freely to thrill a record 8,486 crowd at the Western Australian indoor arena.

But Vavrinec matched her 20-year-old opponent early on, the Swiss number five pumping groundstrokes deep into the corners of the court.

Molik continued pressing forward, though, and got the breakthrough in the eighth game.

Vavrinec nudged a tentative backhand into the net to hand Molik breakpoint and the Australian made no mistake, whipping a backhand passing shot down the line.

Molik served out for the set, sliding a deep forehand volley into the corner and punching away Vavrinec's weak reply on her first setpoint.

Molik, at a career-high 47 in the world, broke again in the first game of the second set and, despite allowing Vavrinec a break back in the fourth game of the set, kept her nose ahead, serving out the match with an ace after 70 minutes.

"The first match of the season is always a nerve-wracking one," Molik said afterwards.

"She was pretty much an unknown going into that match and I just concentrated on my own game...I'm happy with the way it went.

"I'm glad to put us 1-0 up because I may have to call on Lleyton later in the week," she smiled.

Third seeds Spain take on Argentina later on Sunday in the evening session.