The Best United Cup Photos: Group Stage
Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury picked up where they left off in 2022 as they opened the new season with a doubles win Tuesday at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune.
Fresh off their maiden Nitto ATP Finals title in November, the American-British pairing defeated Sebastian Baez and Luis David Martinez 6-3, 7-6(1) to advance to the quarter-finals at the ATP 250. The top seeds will meet Ramkumar Ramanathan and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela next after the Indian-Mexican pair edged Rohan Bopanna and Botic van de Zandschulp 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 11-9.
French third seeds Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul also advanced via a Match Tie-break on Tuesday, scoring a 6-7(1), 7-5, 10-7 win against the Indian duo of Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni.
Italian Success In Adelaide
Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego knocked off home favourites James Duckworth and Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-4 at the Adelaide International 1, with Sonego recovering to take the court after a second-set retirement in his matchup against Daniil Medvedev on Monday. Sinner earned two wins on Tuesday, beating Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-2 in singles play.
Also advancing in Adelaide were Maxime Cressy and Albano Olivetti, and Austrians Lucas Miedler and Alexander Erler.
The United Cup began six days ago in three cities across Australia, with 18 nations competing in six groups. Now, it’s down to just six teams. Wednesday’s City Finals in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane will each feature five matches — two women’s and men’s singles and one mixed doubles — spread across two sessions.
Four of the top five seeded teams made the cut and are joined by Great Britain and Croatia. The team matchups are: United States vs. Great Britain in Sydney; Italy vs. Poland in Brisbane; and Greece vs. Croatia in Perth.
The three winning nations and the losing team with the best United Cup record will advance to Friday’s semi-finals in Sydney.
Five singles players for these two teams bring perfect 2-0 records on the new season into the Sydney City Final.
Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Madison Keys went 6-0 to help the United States defeat the Czech Republic and Germany, while Cameron Norrie and Katie Swan combined for four wins, playing sensational tennis in dispatching Australia and Spain.
“It’s great to start the year off with some wins, for sure,” Fritz said. “I think just the confidence aspect of tennis is super important. Especially going to the Australian Open, coming off the offseason.”
Fritz, ranked No. 9 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, meets Norrie, who is only five spots behind. Their last match was won by Fritz last September at the Laver Cup in a 10-8 Match Tie-break.
Norrie, meanwhile, is coming off what he called the best win of his career, defeating Rafael Nadal in three sets: “Especially on ranking and beating a guy like Rafa as the competitor that he is,” Norrie said of the milestone win. “I know it’s his first match of the year, but it was a sick win. He absolutely chopped me the last five or four times I played him. Nice to get him once now.”
The United States singles players hold a collective head-to-head record of 11-7 against their British opponents. On paper, anyway, the Americans have a big advantage on the women’s side, with Jessica Pegula ranked No. 3 and Keys No. 11 — compared to Nos. 98 and 145 for Harriet Dart and Katie Swan.
Madison Keys (USA) vs. Katie Swan (GBR), 12:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: Keys, 1-0
Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Cameron Norrie (GBR), to follow / Head-to-head: Fritz, 6-5
Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. Harriet Dart (GBR), 5:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: Pegula, 1-0
Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs. Daniel Evans (GBR), to follow / Head-to-head: Tiafoe, 3-2
Jessica Pegula and Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Harriet Dart and Jonny O’Mara (GBR), to follow
Not long after Hubert Hurkacz and Magda Linette scored singles victories against Stan Wawrinka and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland to send Poland into the City Final, Polish captain Agnieszka Radwanska was already looking ahead.
“I’m really looking forward to Hubi’s match against Berrettini,” she told reporters. “I think that’s going to be the best of tomorrow’s matches. We will see after all the matches, but I think that’s the one that I’m really waiting for.”
Earlier, Berrettini defeated World No. 3 Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4 on the way to a 5-0 Italian victory against Norway. Wednesday he meets Hurkacz in a rematch of their 2021 Wimbledon semi-final, won by Berrettini in four sets.
There’s another Grand Slam rematch on the women’s side, too, as World No. 1 Iga Swiatek faces Martina Trevisan. Their 2020 quarter-final at Roland Garros was a big moment on the way to Swiatek’s first major singles title.
“I think in this format you can pretty much expect everything,” Radwanska said. “That’s sport, so anything can happen, especially when you have four singles matches and then the mixed doubles. So it’s always exciting until the end.”
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) vs. Daniel Michalski (POL), 12:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: 0-0.
Martina Trevisan (ITA) vs. Iga Swiatek (POL), to follow / Head-to-head: Swiatek, 1-0
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (POL), 5:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: 1-1
Lucia Bronzetti (ITA) vs. Magda Linette (POL), to follow / Head-to-head: 0-0
Camila Rosatello and Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) vs. Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz (POL), to follow
Thanks to two wins from Maria Sakkari — in singles and mixed doubles with Stefanos Tsitsipas — Greece was the first team into this City Final.
Croatia, however, was locked in a nasty scuffle with France on Tuesday night. Down 2-0, Caroline Garcia narrowed the deficit and Adrian Mannarino nearly forced a mixed doubles decider. Serving for the match in the third set against Borna Gojo, Mannarino wavered and suddenly found himself in a tie-break. Gojo eventually converted his sixth match point and Croatia qualified.
Tsitsipas will face Borna Coric, who has beaten him three straight times, including twice last year, in Cincinnati and Vienna.
Sakkari and Petra Martic will square off for just the second time, their only previous meeting eight years ago in US Open qualifying, when Sakkari qualified for the first Grand Slam main draw of her career.
Despina Papamichail (GRE) vs. Donna Vekic (CRO), 12:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: 0-0
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Borna Coric (CRO), to follow / Head-to-head: Coric, 3-1
Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs. Petra Martic (CRO), 5:30 p.m. / Head-to-head: Sakkari, 1-0
Michail Pervolarakis (GRE) vs. Borna Gojo (CRO), to follow / Head-to-head: 0-0
Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Donna Vekic and Borna Coric (CRO), to follow
Tim van Rijthoven became the third Dutchman into the second round of the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune on Tuesday, when he sealed a 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory against Radu Albot.
The No. 111-ranked Van Rijthoven clinched the only break of each set in his maiden tour-level meeting against Albot, wrapping up an 86-minute victory behind some big serving in India. The 25-year-old, who lifted his maiden ATP Tour title on grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last June, struck 14 aces and saved two break points to set a meeting with Aslan Karatsev. The eighth-seeded Karatsev was a 6-1, 6-3 winner against Pablo Andujar.
Van Rijthoven joins countrymen Tallon Griekspoor and Botic van de Zandschulp in the second round in Pune. Van de Zandschulp is seeded second at the ATP 250 event, behind Marin Cilic.
Also on Tuesday, #NextGenATP Italian Flavio Cobolli notched his second tour-level win with a 6-4, 7-5 victory against home wild card Mukund Sasikumar. Cobolli will take on van de Zandschulp on centre court on Wednesday as he bids to reach the third round of an ATP Tour event for the first time.
Ramkumar Ramanathan was the last home hope in the singles draw in western India, but after taking the first set against Pedro Martinez, the 28-year-old qualifier was unable to complete the job. The World No. 62 Martinez pulled through for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory to set a second-round clash against fourth seed Sebastian Baez. That will be a repeat of the 2022 final in Santiago, where Martinez claimed his maiden ATP Tour crown.
Much of the discussion around Team Poland at the United Cup has centred around the the captain-player pairing of former WTA No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and current World No. 1 Iga Swiatek. While Swiatek has delivered in Brisbane with a pair of singles wins, so too has teammate Hubert Hurkacz, who entered 2023 at No. 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Hurkacz, who defeated Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan and Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland to help his country to a 2-0 Group B record, also paired with Swiatek for a mixed doubles win against Kazakhstan.
Asked about her top male player, Radwanska pointed out the 25-year-old’s professionalism as a standout trait.
“He’s very professional. He’s really focussed on the game,” she said after Poland’s 3-2 victory against Team Switzerland. “He’s doing everything off the court to play the best tennis. I admire him that at a really young age he became a model for all the young kids, how to do everything to play the best tennis: how to eat, how to stretch, how to practise, how to be focused all the time, to really prepare for the match 100 per cent.
“That’s something that you’re not going to see very often at a young age. He did that since I know him. When you’re a teenager, sometimes in your mind there are so many different things. He was always focussed on tennis. That’s why he’s here [in the Top 10], playing some of the best tennis in the world. It’s good to see him playing better and better tennis, and I really hope he can do even better than that.”
In terms of his on-court arsenal, Radwankska had more good things to say about the 6-foot-5 Pole: “He’s a great server, that’s for sure,” she said. “He can play all day long. He’s physically and mentally strong.”
But like any good captain, she still wants to see more from her charge — and she is confident Hurkacz will deliver.
“I think there is always something to improve, right?” she continued. “It’s the sport of tennis. You always work on something and you want to be better and play better. But he’s such a hard worker, so I think he’s going to have a lot of years on Tour. He’s really taking care of his body, as well, very well.
“I think we’re gonna see him for so long on the court. I really believe he can do everything.”
Britain’s Andy Murray loses in straight sets to American Sebastian Korda in the first round of the Adelaide International.
“It was the first time in my life this week seeing a Top 100 player in front of me, actually,” Sakellaridis, who competes regularly on the ITF Men’s World Tennis Tour, told ATPTour.com in Perth. “When everyone was coming by, like [David] Goffin, [Grigor] Dimitrov, I was like, ‘Oh, wow’.”
On Tuesday, an injury to his teammate Michail Pervolarakis meant Sakellaridis was called upon to make his tour-level debut against Team Belgium’s Zizou Bergs. Taking on the World No. 129 in front of the biggest crowd of his career could have overwhelmed a player who had never played a match on the ATP Challenger Tour, but Sakellaridis battled to a stunning 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.
What a win!
— United Cup (@UnitedCupTennis) January 3, 2023
The result triggered huge outbursts of emotion from his teammates, including Top 10 stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari as well as his sister Sapfo Sakellaridi. Sakellaridis acknowledged that the positive atmosphere in the Team Greece camp this week played a key role in believing he could step up his level when required.
“You can see that the team chemistry is unbelievable, so it’s a huge boost for every one of us to play much better,” said Sakellaridis. “When you feel good, you play good.”
Even prior to his standout win, Sakellaridis felt supported by his teammates in Perth, where Team Greece will compete in the City Finals on Wednesday after winning Group A. The ATP World No. 4 Tsitsipas is an obvious role model for the teen as he seeks to improve his game.
“To be able to live with [Tsitsipas] throughout the day, you can see how much work he puts in and my respect towards the top players has grown immensely,” said Sakellaridis. “Stefanos has given me lots of advice, he has helped me a lot. Also all the team, they seem like they really want to help me, all of them gave me advice.
“Obviously from watching here, what they do and how they do it on the court and outside the court, I can also see some things for myself. All in all it is an amazing experience to come here.”
One part of that experience has been playing with a fully maintained racquet for the first time in months. In his on-court interview, Sakellaridis paid tribute to a member of the tournament stringing team, who had solved an ongoing issue with the 18-year-old’s stock of equipment.
“I was competing for the last two or three months, [but] I was using only one racquet,” explained Sakellaridis later. “I had grip problems with all my racquets, so I didn’t want to use any others. I was only using the same racquet because it was the only one that felt like the grip was how I like it.
“That racquet, after I played with it a bit, the butt cap [at the bottom of the handle] started moving, so in the past month I was playing with one racquet, and the grip was moving. Then I came here, and he fixed all my racquets, so now I can freely play.”
As well as precious experience on the big stage, Tuesday’s win earned Sakellaridis 20 Pepperstone ATP Ranking points and $25,900 in prize money. It is a potentially career-changing moment for the 18-year-old.
“It’s my ATP debut, and it came with a win, and prize money that I couldn’t imagine,” said Sakellaridis. “[After the United Cup] I’m going to compete in Monastir for the next few weeks. There is a 15K ITF tournament there, but we’ll see how it goes. It was a big win and a big step up in the rankings.”
The Brisbane United Cup press conference room was a classroom on Tuesday, and Italian Matteo Berrettini was the professor.
A group of 14 local Australian junior players sat in on Team Italy’s press conference following the country’s tie victory against Norway. When asked what advice the World No. 16 Berrettini would give them, the 26-year-old went into deep thought.
“I think I was really lucky because I met this guy when I was 14,” Berrettini said of his coach and Team Italy captain Vincenzo Santopadre. “I’m always joking around, but, I mean, I have to thank him. I never thank him enough for what we did together.”
Berrettini explained that what he has learned over the years is the importance of enjoying what he is doing as a professional tennis player, through the highs and the lows.
“Obviously it gets tougher and tougher. At the beginning everything is new, so you play the first Slam, you play the first big tournament, then the pressure is coming,” Berrettini said. “You learn as a person, you learn as a player, and you try to kind of learn from what is happening. I’m going to stop talking now.”
But the Italian was not done. He saved perhaps the most valuable lesson for last.
“I think the most important thing for me at least was I always say that every day I put a brick in my wall so I feel like even when I’m losing, doesn’t matter, I feel I have to learn something from what happened,” Berrettini said. “I think that’s the advice I’m going to tell them. So even the worst days, feel that something good happened and take that good and try to improve.”
The floor was opened to questions from the junior players and one 15-year-old volunteered to ask Berrettini one.
“Matteo, regarding the pressure, is there something you do to take down the pressure?” the junior asked. “Is there a routine or something you do before the match to take the pressure down?”
“That’s a great question, actually. The pressure never goes away. Doesn’t matter if you’re Grand Slam champion, which I’m not, or a Top-10 player. It’s always there,” Berrettini said. “Yesterday night I was talking to my coach. I felt a lot of pressure, not just for this match but for the season. The season is starting. Last year was a tough year. It’s always there.
“Like I said, it’s learning from who you are. From the stuff you’re doing, you try to learn yourself in a way.”
WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia delivered the goods under pressure on Tuesday, when she defeated Petra Martic 7-6(9), 6-4 in a must-win United Cup rubber to keep France’s hopes of advancing to the Perth City Finals alive.
Croatia had led 2-0 overnight after wins for Donna Vekic and Borna Coric, but Garcia came into her clash with Martic with a promising 4-1 head-to-head record. The WTA Finals champion backed that up, extending it to 5-1 as she denied Martic the chance to clinch for her team.
Fittingly for a contest between two of the best servers on Tour, the first set went down to the wire and was decided by the thinnest of margins. Through the first 12 games, it was Martic who carved out more chances on return, deploying her sliced backhand to fine effect — including on one lofted lob that left Garcia flailing.
Garcia needed her finest serves to save break points in the first and ninth games; by contrast, despite serving second, Martic conceded only four points behind her delivery through the first 12 games.
The ensuing tie-break was a thrilling microcosm of the match as a whole. Momentum shifted back and forth between the pair, and Garcia needed to save one set point at 6/7 before converting her fifth by putting away a short forehand.
— United Cup (@UnitedCupTennis) January 3, 2023
Garcia still had to stave off a further two break points at the start of the second set, but that was her last moment of danger. In the next game, she broke Martic to love, sealing the game by rushing forwards off her return and finding a volley winner that clipped the net on its way into the open court.
The Frenchwoman, who fired seven aces among her 33 total winners, would only drop four more points on serve as she maintained her lead through the end of the match.
Hubert Hurkacz earned a critical win for Team Poland on Tuesday evening against Team Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, putting his country one victory from the Brisbane City Final.
Hurkacz battled through a tense clash against the former World No. 3 7-6(5), 6-4 to give Poland a 2-1 advantage. Magda Linette will now try to close out the tie in the No. 2 women’s singles match against Jil Teichmann. If Teichmann wins, the mixed doubles match will decide the tie.
“Never had a chance before to play against Stan, so I was really looking forward for that match. He’s such a legend of the sport. I was watching him win the Grand Slams and now I can share the court with him, so that was a huge pleasure for me,” Hurkacz said. “Definitely a very big match. Obviously very happy to get a point for Team Poland, so I was really excited about it. It was a big point for us and we’ll keep fighting.”
The stakes were high for Hurkacz and Wawrinka, with both players knowing the edge in Group B was hanging in the balance. Switzerland playing captain battled hard and the margins were fine, but World No. 10 Hurkacz found his best in the critical moments to triumph after one hour and 39 minutes.
Hurkacz made a quick start by immediately breaking Wawrinka’s serve. But once the 37-year-old Swiss revved up his engine, it seemed his firepower might help turn the tide of the match.
However, the three-time Grand Slam champion made a critical error at 3/3 in the first-set tie-break, which proved his undoing. Wawrinka double faulted, and Hurkacz took full advantage to close out the set.
At 3-3 in the second set, a serving Wawrinka hit a screaming backhand passing shot for a winner to avoid facing triple break point. While it was a vintage ‘Stan The Man’ moment reminiscent of his time at the top of the sport, the Swiss was unable to hold off the Hurkacz barrage forever.
The Pole earned a break point later in the game and changed his approach, moving into the net with a ball to Wawrinka’s forehand, which faltered under the pressure.
“I found my rhythm on serve towards the end of the match and definitely from the baseline I was hitting some better shots,” Hurkacz said. “It was a really, really important match and I’m happy that I was building my game through the whole match and it was a really tough battle.”
The country that wins the tie will move on to face Italy in the Brisbane City Final. The Italians defeated Brazil and Norway to top Group E.