United Cup Day 5 Preview: Can Tsitsipas, Keys Continue Strong Starts?
So much for easing into the new year.
In his first match of the season, Stefanos Tsitsipas found himself in a rollicking match with Grigor Dimitrov at the United Cup. It was, appropriately, decided in a third-set tiebreak.
“I stayed calm, I stayed well composed,” Tsitsipas said after his win. “In these moments, you have just got to stay in the moment. You cannot start predicting or thinking about the future. I managed that extremely well. I was able to serve big first serves. I didn’t let myself get back on defence, very rarely, and these moments define me.”
Indeed, they do. For that is how Tsitsipas carved out a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) victory, which helped stake top-seeded Greece to a 4-1 win over Bulgaria in Perth. It was an exceptionally clean match, with Tsitsipas saving eight of nine break points and winning just two more points than the determined Dimitrov.
On Monday, there is another stout challenge: David Goffin of Belgium — as Greece (1-0) tries to complete a clean sweep in Group A. The former World No. 7 had some nice results last year, winning his 300th career match on the way to his sixth ATP Tour title in Marrakech, and beating World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in Astana.
This is the pair’s seventh ATP Head2Head meeting, with Tsitsipas holding a 4-2 edge. Still, they haven’t played in more than three years.
Tsitsipas also won a United Cup mixed doubles match with Maria Sakkari, who earlier was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Viktoriya Tomova. The two Greeks have a history in Perth, going back to the 2019 Hopman Cup, when they managed surprising victories against Roger Federer (paired with Belinda Bencic) and Serena Williams (with Frances Tiafoe).
“As Team Greece, I think we have never been stronger,” Tsitsipas said. “We have a lineup of great players. We are extremely collaborative between each other. I think that is something that will give us big chances this year to start this first edition of the United Cup, and be part of history in a way.”
It isn’t all just tennis. There is this conundrum to solve regarding the Greek specialty of sizzling skewer delights.
“We are still trying to figure out which place has better souvlaki: Perth, Melbourne, or Sydney,” Tsitsipas said, smiling. “So that has occupied a big portion of our conversations. We are trying to spot the differences.”
Keys Loving Life Down Under
Maybe it’s the summer right out of the box that Australia offers each January. Perhaps it’s the peace of mind that comes with a fresh start. Or, it might be because her older sister is named… Sydney.
Whatever the reason, Madison Keys has absolutely thrived Down Under.
“I love playing here,” she said last week. “Whether it’s the people, I like playing in the heat at the start of the year. It’s fast and bouncy. It suits my game really well. I’m hoping to kind of be able to do that again this year, have a good start to my year.”
It couldn’t have started any better. Keys took care of Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-3 as part of the United States’ 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic. On Monday, she and teammate Taylor Fritz will try to produce another singles sweep in Sydney against the other opponent in Group C, Germany. Fritz will meet Alexander Zverev, who will be playing his second competitive singles match since injuring his ankle in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
A victory over Germany (0-1) would win Group C for the United States.
The big-hitting Keys burst into the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2015 at the age of 19. She reached the quarter-finals three years later, and last year she won her first five matches in Melbourne before falling to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty in the semis. The week before, she won her sixth career title in Adelaide. Her 25-9 record at the Australian Open is the best of her major efforts.
Keys will square off against Jule Niemeier, a player who poses a formidable challenge. She has a similar, bruising power game to Keys, and she’s coming off the best season of her career. Niemeier won 39 of 60 matches in 2022 and reached the fourth round of the US Open before losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
These two have never met.
Also In Action
Poland’s Iga Swiatek and Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic will square off in the opening match of a winner-takes-all tie which will decide Group B in Brisbane. In the same city, Italy needs a win against the eliminated Norway to advance at Brazil’s expense. Team Italy will turn to Lorenzo Musetti and Martina Trevisan on Monday.
In Perth, France and Croatia will battle it out to win Group F. The tie begins with two intriguing singles matchups: Alize Cornet and Donna Vekic will open play in the evening session, followed by a meeting between Arthur Rinderknech and Borna Coric.
Rafael Nadal will look to bounce back from a three-set loss to Cameron Norrie as he seeks his first win of the 2023 season against Australia’s Alex de Minaur in Sydney. While prize money and Pepperstone ATP Rankings points are on offer, neither Spain nor Australia can advance from Group D, with Norrie’s Great Britain confirmed as group winners with a 2-0 record.
City Final qualification scenarios
Group B: The winner of Poland vs. Switzerland will qualify.
Group E: If Italy defeats Norway, Italy will qualify. If Norway defeats Italy, Brazil will qualify.
Group A: If Greece defeats Belgium or loses 3-2 to Belgium, Greece will qualify. If Belgium defeats Greece 4-1 or 5-0, Belgium will qualify.
Group F: The winner of France vs. Croatia will qualify.
Group C: If the U.S. defeats Germany or loses 2-3 to Germany, the U.S. will qualify. If Germany defeats the U.S. 4-1 or 5-0, Germany will qualify.
Group D: Great Britain has already qualified.
United Cup: Day 5 Order of play (local time)
Sydney, Ken Rosewall Arena
United States (1-0) vs. Germany (0-1) (Group C)
Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Alexander Zverev (GER), 12 noon
Madison Keys (USA) vs. Jule Niemeier (GER), to follow
Spain (0-1) vs. Australia (0-1) (Group D)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Alex de Minaur (AUS), 7 p.m.
Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) vs. Maddison Inglis (AUS), to follow
Perth, RAC Arena
Greece (1-0) vs. Belgium (0-1) (Group A)
Despina Papamichail (GRE) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL), 12 noon
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. David Goffin (BEL), to follow
France (1-0) vs. Croatia (1-0) (Group F)
Alize Cornet (FRA) vs. Donna Vekic (CRO), 6 p.m.
Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) vs. Borna Coric (CRO), to follow
Brisbane, Pat Rafter Arena
Italy (1-0) vs. Norway (0-1) (Group E)
Martina Trevisan (ITA) vs. Malene Helgo (NOR), 1 p.m.
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) vs. Viktor Durasovic (NOR), to follow
Poland (1-0) vs. Switzerland (1-0) (Group B)
Iga Swiatek (POL) vs. Belinda Bencic (SWI), 7 p.m.
Daniel Michalski (POL) vs. Marc-Andrea Huesler (SWI), to follow