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Philippoussis loses as Aussies win

Australia's win came despite a defeat for Philippoussis

PERTH, Australia -- Mark Philippoussis was easily beaten in his opening match of the year but Australia still scrambled their way to a 2-1 victory over Slovakia in the Hopman Cup.

After Alicia Molik defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-3, Philippoussis, who slid to 109 in the world rankings in 2004, went down 7-5 6-2 to Dominik Hrbaty.

Molik then outshone partner Philippoussis in the deciding mixed doubles to help Australia wrap up their Group B encounter 6-7 6-3 7-6 (11-9) in the match tiebreak.

"It was a little ugly, but a win's a win," a relieved Philippoussis said. "I have been practising well but there's nothing like match practice and the confidence wasn't there and I was a little tense.

"Hopefully, I'll improve with every match and maybe some of Alicia's confidence will rub off on me."

After 11 first-round defeats in 2004 Philippoussis' confidence hit an all-time low but coaching sessions with former world number one John McEnroe in the off-season had put him in good heart going into the new year.

However, after three months without match practice his usually impregnable serve lacked penetration and he was broken six times by Hrbaty.

"It is always really hard to play him because he serves so well," Hrbaty said. "But I was returning really well today. I almost felt like I was Andre Agassi."

Earlier, Molik picked up where she left off in 2004 with a confident victory over Hantuchova to put Australia ahead.

The 23-year-old, who began 2005 at a career-high ranking of 13, thrilled the home crowd with a dominant display against a rusty-looking Hantuchova, who served seven double faults.

Her only real scare came when she collided with the umpire's chair when serving for the first set.

"It's only a small graze, I'm a tough girl," said Molik, who clinched victory in 63 minutes. "I felt very confident out there and I didn't feel that Daniela was putting too much pressure on me."

After the deciding mixed doubles went to a match tiebreak, Philippoussis and Molik saved a match point at 9-8 and then clinched victory when Hrbaty netted a volley.

Top seeds Russia, represented by Marat Safin and Anastasia Myskina, begin their title bid later on Monday with a Group A match against Germany.

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