With the tie locked at 1-1, Italy needed Matteo Berrettini, the world No.16, to provide the impetus to get past a stubborn Brazilian team in Group E of the United Cup being played in Brisbane at the Pat Rafter Arena.
I’m happy for my performance, but obviously when you play in these kind of competitions, the most important thing is to get the win and bring a point for the team and that’s why I’m even happier. Matteo Berrettini
And he did just that, the powerful Italian No.1 used all his experience over one hour and 56-minutes to get past his Brazilian counterpart, Thiago Monteiro 6-4 7-6(7) to give Team Italia and provide the lift they were looking for which, at 2-1, gave them a chance of closing it out in the next match.
“Pretty happy I have to say. It’s been a long time since I’ve played my last singles match, so I didn’t know what to expect. I think the level was pretty high,” Berrettini, who was dogged with injuries last season, said. “I’m happy for my performance, but obviously when you play in these kind of competitions, the most important thing is to get the win and bring a point for the team and that’s why I’m even happier.”
Monteiro was unable to deal with his opponent’s firepower who dominated play with his serve and didn’t face a single break point while dictating rallies with his forehand at every opportunity.
However, Berrettini was unable to break serve in the second set and found himself up against it in the tie-break when he fell 4-6 behind. He retrieved the situation with some angled shots to regain control and subsequently the match and the valuable point.
“It’s all about the heart, especially when you’re playing for Italy. When you see your teammates in the box, you have to give a little bit more and that’s what I tried to do,” Berrettini said. “Always playing tough matches against Thiago, really tough player. But I think I played better in the important moments and that’s why I won.”
It then fell to Lucia Bronzetti, ranked 54, to seal the overall win and she did it in some style running off the first 10 games as she swept aside Laura Pigossi, ranked 64 places below her, 6-0 6-2 to clinch the tie for the Italians.
In the mixed doubles, Brazil’s Rafael Matos and Luisa Stefani clawed past Berrettini and Camilla Rosatello 6-4 6-7(4) 10-4 but ended the day short,losing 3-2.
Brazil will next face Norway on Saturday and Sunday while Italy takes on Norway on Monday and Tuesday.
In the Group B tie also played a the Pat Rafter stadium, Stan Wawrinka produced an excellent performance to give Switzerland an unassailable 3-0 lead when he downed Alexander Bublik 6-3 7-6(3) to secure his first win in three meetings over the Kazakhstani No.1.
“I was super happy when they announced this United Cup, to have the chance to play for the Swiss with my teammates and everybody and to play here in Brisbane. Tonight was a great level,” a delighted Wawrinka, the team’s player-captain, said. “I’m super happy with the way I was playing. I’ve been working really hard to be back at a better level and I’m happy with the performance today.”
Wawrinka, a former world No.3, was focused throughout the 91-minute encounter against his big serving and tricky opponent whom he never allowed to get a foothold in a match in which he never faced a breakpoint. Bublik did have an opportunity to turn the tide in the tie-break, but two sloppy drop shots contributed to his downfall.
“Alexander is a great player, always tough to play. He has a tough game to play against, big serve. He’s always trying to put pressure, so for me it was important here on that court to be the aggressive player, to always show him that any opportunity I will have I will go and I will push him back,” Wawrinka said as he explained his game plan. “So I think I did a great job today and I am super happy to have won in two sets. At my age it’s not easy to keep playing too long, so it’s great.”
He was also very supportive of the new competition.
“I think it’s an amazing experience to play this United Cup, to put women’s and men’s tennis together with the same country,” Wawrinka said. “To have the chance to be the captain, to see tennis in a different way, in a different position, I’m really enjoying [it].”
Jil Teichmann joined her captain in the winner’s circle when she outplayed Kazakhstan’s world No.No.441 Zhibek Kulambayeva, a novice to the tour playing just her second match at this level.
The 25-yer-old Swiss was simply too strong for Kulambayeva who despite losing 10 games on the trot, fought back from 6-3 5-0 only to capitulate three games later, 6-3 6-2.
Teichmann and Marc-Andrea Huesler completed a 5-0 whitewash when they defeated Bublik and Kulambayeva 7-6(7) 6-3 in the mixed doubles.