France firms for Hopman Cup

France is now favoured to win its first Hopman Cup title.

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Alize Cornet's 2-1 win over the US pair of John Isner and Sloane Stephens at the Perth Arena on Wednesday night should be enough for them to reach Saturday's final.

The pair won a live mixed doubles 6-1, 5-7, 10-5 (match tiebreaker) after Tsonga had earlier beaten Isner 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

Stephens' impressive victory over Cornet (7-5, 6-0) in the end became irrelevant to the tie.

Only a massive upset on Friday morning, when France plays the winless Spaniards, can stop Tsonga and Cornet from making the play-off.

That would require either Daniel Munoz-De La Nava (ranked 194 in the world) or Anabel Medina Garrigues (ranked 100) winning their singles matches and then Spain pinching the mixed doubles.

And Tsonga, ranked 10 in the world, is now unbeaten in five matches over two years at the event and looks to already be in good form well ahead of the Australian Open.

This 26th instalment of the Hopman Cup is France's 20th attempt to win it.

Twice it has been the bridesmaid, with Richard Gasquet and Marion Bartoli losing to the Czech Republic team of Tomas Berdych and Petra Kvitova in 2012 and Cedric Pioline and Mary Pierce going down to Karol Kucera and Karina Hadsudova of the Slovak Republic in 1998.

In Group A, Poland or Canada will progress to the final.

If the top seeded Polish team of Grzegorz Panfil (ranked 288) and Agnieszka Radwanska (5) beat the Australians (Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic) on Thursday they will also qualify for the January 4 play-off.

However, if the host nation can find some form, having already lost to Canada and Italy, and win the tie, the Canadians can sneak into the final.

Canada, represented by world number 11 Milos Raonic and world number 32 Eugenie Bouchard play against the Italian team of Andreas Seppi (ranked 25) and Flavia Pennetta (31).

Tsonga's guaranteed matches in the mixed teams event - against Isner, Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and Spain's Daniel Munoz-De La Nava - are the only competition he will have before the Australian Open.

Tsonga's serve was untouchable against Isner. He gave up only three points in the entire first set.

He broke the world number 14 twice in the second set to wrap up the contest in just 76 minutes.

Tsonga, ranked 10, is hoping to make up for an injury-hit 2013. He started the year well, reaching the Australian Open quarters before being knocked out by Roger Federer.

Then David Ferrer beat him in the semi-final at Roland Garros before he was forced to retire in the second round at Wimbledon due to a knee injury.

He missed almost three months of competition, but he hopes he has put it behind him.

"I'm feeling good; I am serving well," he said.

"Yeah, last year also I was in good shape and played well, unfortunately in the middle of the season I had injury so try to make sure it doesn't happen.

"I didn't have a lot of luck with injury last year - this year is going to be another story."

Tsonga, 28, believes he still has what it takes to match it with the world's best.

He showed that in 2012 when he reached the world No.5 ranking.

And he doesn't believe there is any secret of enjoying that success again.

"I have to keep working and that's it; there is no secret," he said.

"You have to work at it; to be really focused on your tennis and stay professional all of the time.

"I like to enjoy life, but I don't have many years to play so I try to focus.

"For me it's important - life is short and you have to enjoy it."

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