France reach Hopman Cup final
Perth - France kept alive their hopes for a first victory at the Hopman Cup, advancing to the final after beating Spain 2-0 at the mixed teams tournament in Western Australia on Thursday.
The French pairing of Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet, seeded second in the event, were too good for the other unbeaten team in Group B, Spanish duo Anabel Medina Garrigues and Fernando Verdasco.
The ninth-ranked Bartoli continued her impressive early season form ahead of the Australian Open to put the French on track for Saturday's final when she beat Medina Garrigues in the women's singles in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
Richard Gasquet, 19th in the world, then cruised past former world No 7 Fernando Verdasco, now ranked 24th, by the same scoreline in the men's singles to put the French into the final.
The dead mixed doubles rubber was not played.
France's only previous appearance in the Hopman Cup final was in 1998, when Mary Pierce and Cedric Pioline were beaten 2-1 by the Slovak Republic's Karina Habsudova and Karol Kucera.
Bartoli was excited to have the chance to be the first French team to win the Hopman Cup.
"It is the first time we have played together so we couldn't have asked for more," she said. "We want the diamond balls that's for sure", she added, referring to the unique diamond-encrusted tennis balls the winners receive.
"I am sure we have a shot no matter who we play against."
France's opponent will be decided by Friday's Group A ties, with the top-seeded Czech Republic pairing of Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berydch looking the most likely to go through.
"We won't be favourites, but we are confident and we are enjoying playing together," Gasquet said after putting in a solid performance to defeat Verdasco in 78 minutes.
Gasquet broke Verdasco in the third and seventh games on his way to the first set, and with Verdasco's trademark forehand missing its mark, Gasquet broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second set.
The Spaniard was able to stave off four match points, but yet another forehand error, this time dumping the ball into the net, finished the match.
In the day's other tie between Group B's remaining teams, Chinese star Li Na maintained her unbeaten start to the year with an easy win over the 33rd-ranked Australian Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-3, 6-2.
The 2011 French Open champion has been in fine form this week, beating Bartoli and Medina Garrigues, and she was rarely troubled by the Australian.
But her exploits came to nothing in the end as Australia's Lleyton Hewitt levelled the tie in his men's singles with a battling 6-4, 7-5 win over Wu Di, and the Australian duo beat the Chinese in the deciding mixed doubles.