US wins Hopman Cup
Perth - The United States marched to their sixth Hopman Cup title with a 2-1 win over Belgium in the final of the mixed teams tournament on Saturday.
The tie was all square after the singles, but the American team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and John Isner, capitalising on the absence of top seeds Serbia, claimed the deciding mixed doubles with a comfortable 6-1, 6-3 win over Justine Henin and Ruben Bemelmans.
While it was the first time Isner and Mattek-Sands had claimed the unique diamond-encrusted silver tennis balls presented to the Hopman Cup's winners, the US are the most successful nation in the 23-year history of the event.
It was Belgium's first appearance in the final.
Henin joked that it was impossible to combat the Isner serve in the doubles.
"They were the better team," she said. "He's just too big, John."
The Belgians made the final only by replacing Serbia, after Ana Ivanovic withdrew from the tournament with a torn stomach muscle Friday.
Henin gave the Belgians the lead with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 win over Mattek-Sands in the women's singles, before Isner squared the tie with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bemelmans to set up the deciding mixed doubles.
In the women's singles, the 58th-ranked Mattek-Sands took it right up to the former world number one, who is on the comeback trail after an elbow injury and was playing in her first tournament since last year's Wimbledon.
The feisty American played some brilliant shots as the pair traded breaks in the first set, with eight in a row at one stage.
Mattek-Sands had two set points in the first set tiebreak, but Henin upped the ante to reel off the last four points.
It was a similar story in the second set, with the American achieving an early break to lead 3-1.
Just when a third set loomed Henin gave a reminder of why she has won seven Grand Slams, with 20 scintillating minutes of tennis that produced five straight games to finish the match.
The diminutive 28-year-old played some trademark passing shots and won 18 of the last 19 points of the match in a stunning assault that augurs well for her upcoming Australian Open campaign.
Henin made the final of last year's Australian Open in her Grand Slam comeback after retirement and said the way she finished the match was confidence-building.
"I started a bit slowly but thought Bethanie put a lot of pressure on myself," she said.
"I wasn't aggressive enough on my serve.
"Then in the second set I waited until it was 3-1 to play my game in the last five games.
"I just put the intensity up much more than the first.
"I was good to finish the match with this confidence."
The towering Isner simply overpowered the plucky Bemelmans in the men's singles rubber.
Bemelmans, ranked 178 compared to Isner's 19, couldn't find a way to blunt the 2.06m American's powerful serve.