A year ago, Matteo Berrettini reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open — losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal — and seemed headed for another sensational season when the hand of fate intervened.
Actually, it was the Italian’s right hand that underwent surgery after Indian Wells. Berrettini was sidelined for three months and never regained the form that lifted him to a career-high No. 6 Pepperstone ATP Ranking.
On Tuesday, Berrettini will know exactly where he stands when he faces World No. 3 Casper Ruud. Berrettini is looking to help Italy capture Group E with a victory over Norway. Italy leads 2-0 after wins from Lorenzo Musetti and Martina Trevisan on Monday.
The Italian team is loaded with talent, particularly on the men’s side. Vincenzo Santopadre, Berrettini’s coach of nearly a dozen years, is the team captain.
“Like I said yesterday, unfortunately the captain is not the best we can have, but we’re going to figure out during the matches,” Berrettini said when the team met the media, tongue in cheek. “No, it’s great I can experience something like this with my coach, with my good friends. Yesterday at dinner we were thinking about when we started. We were 12.”
Santopadre, smiling, countered, “I really agree with everybody. Of course, not with Matteo. Unfortunately we have this player with us. We have to share moments together.”
France Turns To Garcia
The scenario is straightforward: The winner of the matchup between France and Croatia will advance to the City Final in Perth. After Monday’s results, the score is 2-0 Croatia.
The pressure turns to Caroline Garcia, who is first up Tuesday, when she takes on Petra Martic in the first of three more Group F matches.
But if there’s someone you want in this situation, it’s Garcia.
Four years ago, she went on a tear and landed inside the Hologic WTA Tour Top 10. And then, after a series of injuries and the doubts that came with them, she scuffled for three seasons, ending 2021 at World No. 74.
Committing fully to her ultra-aggressive game, Garcia was rejuvenated in 2022, culminating with the title at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth. At the age of 29, she sits at World No. 4, matching her career high.
Does it feel different this time?
“Yeah, I think five years changes a lot in the way you manage things,” she told reporters before the United Cup began in Perth. “I think I got experience from the past as well, and obviously the ranking is important but it doesn’t mean who you are, how you play or whatever. I just try to do my thing, practise as well as I can. Maybe [the ranking] just helps to get some practice courts, things like that, makes your life easier, but after, you’re still the same person.”
If Garcia can prevail, it will be up to France’s Adrian Mannarino to continue the comeback. He faces Croatia’s Borna Gojo. A mixed doubles rubber would ultimately decide the group winner if both Garcia and Mannarino win.
Garcia got off to a terrific start for Team France, dropping only two games to Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska. France was a 5-0 winner, but has some work to do against Croatia on Tuesday. Both teams entered the pivotal Group F contest with a 1-0 record, but on Monday Donna Vekic gave Croatia an early 1-0 lead, edging Alize Cornet. Arthur Rinderknech and Borna Coric played the late match, won by Coric.
Garcia has beaten Martic four of five times. Still, the two split last year with Martic winning in the Lausanne semi-final and Garcia prevailing in the first round at Cincinnati. Garcia is also scheduled to play mixed doubles with captain Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
“Petra is also a good test, a good challenge,” Garcia said. “We had a few matches very tight in the past, and we have some kind of the same weapons, so we’ll see who can use them the most.”
The next step for Garcia is a Grand Slam singles title. After reaching the semi-finals at the US Open last fall, she wants more.
“For sure it gave me a lot of confidence,” Garcia said. “It was something I was not really able to achieve in the past, so my dream and my goal is always to win a Slam, so obviously make it more concrete to be able to make it to the semifinal, but it’s still the highest steps to reach, and I will try.”
Also In Action
Brisbane will host two marquee men’s singles matches on Tuesday. After Berrettini and Ruud square off in the day session, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz will meet Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in the evening. That Group B matchup, the winner of which will advance to the City Final, is knotted at 1-1. The winner of the first ATP Head2Head meeting between Hurkacz and Wawrinka will put his country within one victory of clinching the group.
Team Greece must win one of its three matches on Tuesday to advance in Perth, with Maria Sakkari taking on Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the day’s first rubber. The tie is knotted at 1-1, but Greece would top the Group A even with a 3-2 defeat.
The winners of both Sydney groups have already been decided, with the United States and Great Britain set to square off in the City Final. Jessica Pegula and Frances Tiafoe will look to complete a 2-0 group run for the Americans, who lead France 2-0. Spain and Australia will also compete in Sydney, with that tie level at 1-1.
Day 5: What’s on the line
City Final qualification scenarios
Group B: Poland and Switzerland are tied 1-1 after Monday. The winner will qualify for the City Final.
Group E: Italy leads Norway 2-0 after Monday. If the Italians wins, they will qualify. If Norway makes a comeback, Brazil will qualify.
Group A: Greece and Belgium are tied 1-1 after Monday. If Greece defeats Belgium or loses 3-2 to Belgium, Greece will qualify. If Belgium defeats Greece 4-1, Belgium will qualify.
Group F: Croatia leads France 2-0 after Monday. The winner of the tie will qualify.
Group C: The U.S. leads Germany 2-0 after Monday, but the Americans have already qualified for the Sydney City Final.
Group D: Great Britain has already qualified. Spain and Australia are tied 1-1 after Monday.
United Cup: Day 6 Order of play (local time)
Sydney, Ken Rosewall Arena
United States (1-0) vs. Germany (0-1) (Group C)
USA leads 2-0
Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. Laura Siegemund (GER), 10 a.m.
Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs. Oscar Otte (GER), to follow
Jessica Pegula and Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Julia Lohoff and Fabian Fallert (GER), to follow
Spain (0-1) vs. Australia (0-1) (Group D)
Paula Badosa (ESP) vs. Zoe Hives (AUS), 4:30 p.m.
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) vs. Jason Kubler (AUS), to follow
Paula Badosa and Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Samantha Stosur and John Peers (AUS), to follow
Perth, RAC Arena
Greece (1-0) vs. Belgium (0-1) (Group A)
Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs. Elise Mertens (BEL), 10 a.m.
Michail Pervolarakis (GRE) vs. Zizou Bergs (BEL), to follow
Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Elise Mertens and David Goffin (BEL), to follow
France (1-0) vs. Croatia (1-0) (Group F)
Croatia leads 2-0
Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs. Petra Martic (CRO), 4:30 p.m.
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs. Borna Gojo (CRO), to follow
Caroline Garcia and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs. Donna Vekic and Borna Coric (CRO), to follow
Brisbane, Pat Rafter Arena
Italy (1-0) vs. Norway (0-1) (Group E)
Italy leads 2-0
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. Casper Ruud (NOR), 10 a.m.
Lucia Bronzetti (ITA) vs. Ulrikke Eikeri (NOR), to follow
Camilla Rosatello and Andrea Vavassori (ITA) vs. Ulrikke Eikeri and Viktor Durasovic (NOR), to follow
Poland (1-0) vs. Switzerland (1-0) (Group B)
Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Stan Wawrinka (SWI), 4:30 p.m.
Magda Linette (POL) vs. Jil Teichmann (SWI), to follow
Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Belinda Bencic and Stan Wawrinka (SWI), to follow