Hewitt to begin 2010 push with weekend Hopman Cup start

December 29th, 2009 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Maria Sharapova Perth, Dec 29 (DPA) Lleyton Hewitt is due to put five weeks of training in Sydney to the test Saturday when the two-time Grand Slam champion begins Australia’s campaign at the Hopman Cup mixed team event.
The former number one is to team up with French Open semi-finalist Samantha Stosur as the host nation bids for only its second title at the eight-nation team event.

Australia, the top seeds, begin on the opening day at the Burswood Dome against Romania with Victor Hanescu and teenage talent Sorana Cirstea, ranked 45th on the WTA.

Hewitt, now based in the Bahamas, has spent the southern summer holiday season training on the east coast with good mate and new coach Nathan Healey, a former rival early in his career. Healey and Hewitt teamed up earlier in 2009 after Hewitt parted company with longtime mentor Tony Roche.

“The Australian summer is obviously the main priority, trying to get ready for the Hopman Cup and then obviously Sydney leading into the Australian Open in Melbourne,” Hewitt said on his website.

“That’s where we want to get the damage done. I’d love to get back into the top five as soon as possible. Obviously the four majors for us is the priority.”

Stosur is coming off a record-setting 2009, winner her first singles title in the autumn in Japan after reaching a career-first singles semi-final at Roland Garros.

She defeated the 19-year-old Cirstea twice in 2009 in straight-set victories.

Andy Murray is scheduled to be the headline act at this year’s edition as he makes his debut at the event along with Laura Robson, junior Wimbledon finalist six months ago after winning that event in 2008.

Robson grew up in Australia but has resisted enticements to switch nationality.

Murray, fourth in the world, is hoping that past years of Hopman Cup good luck might rub off on him.

Australian Open winners Marat Safin (2005) and Novak Djokovkic (2008) both played the teams event in Perth only weeks before claiming their Grand Slam titles.

The US will also field a fresh generation of talent with newcomers Melanie Oudin and John Isner representing the five-time champions.

Oudin rose to prominence at the US Open after beating Russian seeds Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva before losing the quarter-finals to eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki. The 41st-ranked Isner, a tree-topper at 2.06 metres, upset Andy Roddick in New York before losing in the fourth round to Roger Federer.

Other squads include Russia with Igor Andreev and Elena Dementieva and Germany fielding Sabine Lisicki and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Spain will feature former winner Tommy Robredo, playing for a fourth time in Perth, with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez onside.

Robredo took 2002 Hopman honours with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

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