Perth | Poland prevails against Spain, while Australia upsets defending champions USA to reach the Last 8

World No 1 Iga Swiatek rescued Poland’s hopes in the United Cup in Perth after Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina upset Hubert Hurkacz in the men’s singles at the RAC Arena in Perth on New Year’s Day, and, later on, in the night session, Australia got past defending champions USA to also reach the quarter-finals.

This means everything. It is a dream come true. Playing in front of the home crowd and playing with Matty, a Perth local, it is a dream come true to win and go into the quarter-finals at home. Storm Hunter

Swiatek was in dominant form as she dispatched Sarah Sorribes Tormo with the loss of just 3 games and then teamed up with Hurkacz to double-bagel the Spaniards in the deciding mixed doubles to move Poland into United Cup quarter-finals

In the winner-takes-all mixed doubles rubber in Group A, Swiatek & Hurkacz ensured the top seed reached the Last 8 with a flawless performance as they won 78 percent (19/24) of their first-serve points, and did not face a break point in the 43 minute encounter.

Poland reached the semi-finals at the 18-country mixed-teams event last season, and is the first team to advance to the quarters at this year’s event.

“I was super proud because they really showed off today,” said Polish captain Tomasz Wiktorowski. “Hubie had a tough opponent in the first match. Then he stepped up for mixed doubles. It was a great performance in mixed doubles.

“I’m also super proud of Iga because we had a tough off-season just behind [us]. It’s always nice when right after off-season, during the official matches, we see that what we’ve done is working at the moment.”


Alejandro Davidovich Fokina upset Poland's World No 9 Hubert Hurkacz to put Spain 1-0 against Poland on Day 4 of the United Cup in Perth

© Colin Murty/AFP via Getty Images

Spain started the day on top by winning the men’s singles, with Davidovich Fokina notching the first point for his country with a 3-6 6-3 6-4 upset of Hurkacz.

Despite clinching the first set, the ATP No 9 lost the plot in the following two sets and suffered a defeat at the hand of Davidovich Fokina, who was impressive on his second-serve points, winning 74% points behind his second delivery and 55% on Hurkacz’s second serve, to advance after 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Having opened his season with a straight-sets win against Thiago Seyboth Wild, Davidovich Fokina now leads Hurkacz 4-2 in their head-to-head.

The 24-year-old Spaniard also improved to 6-24 in his record against players inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.

Poland’s come-back began when grabbed a 6-2 6-1 win over Sorribes Tormo in an hour and 28 minutes.

The 4-time Grand Slam champion had little difficulty in seeing off Sorribes Tormo, the top-ranked Spanish woman at World No 48, and improved her head-to-head against to 3-0, without loss of a set.

“This match was pretty physical, even though it was 6-2, 6-1,” Swiatek told the press. “It was much tougher than it looked.”

On Monday, Swiatek was forced to save 4 break points within her first 3 service games, but those proved to be the only ones she would face in a match during which she never lost her serve.

The 22-year old Pole’s power game clicked into place during a commanding break to love for 4-2, punctuated by a return winner, and 2 games later, Swiatek collected the one-set lead with a backhand winner on her 2nd set point.

Swiatek saw 4 break points slip away at 1-0 in the second, but she took charge for good shortly after with an aggressive break for 3-1, and cruised home from there to capture her 13th straight match-win, with her two wins so far in Perth backing up consecutive titles at Beijing and the WTA Finals to close out the 2023 season.

“I’m really happy with my level, and the way I’m focused,” Swiatek said. “I’m not feeling rusty. I’m not feeling like I need to get into a lot of rhythm. I’m playing freely, the same way I felt in Beijing, after US Open basically. I’m just happy to be in that place.”


Poland's Iga Swiatek was in imperious form against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo and levelled the tie to take it into the decider on New Year's Day in Perth

© Colin Murty/AFP via Getty Images

Having stepped up to level the tie by thrashing Sorribes Tormo, Swiatek then combined with Hurkacz to secure Poland’s spot at the top of Group A with a 6-0 6-0 win over Sorribes Tormo & Davidovich Fokina in the deciding mixed rubber.

After the match, Swiatek joked about dishing out a double bagel to the Spaniards with assistance from fellow ‘chef’ Hurkacz, referring to the famous ‘Iga’s Bakery’ phenomenon.

“I mean I think I was just bringing the ingredients,” Hurkacz said.

Swiatek and Hurkacz’s banter continued during the post-match press conference, when asked if the motivation behind finishing the mixed-doubles tie in a flash was a dinner appointment for the Polish duo.

”For us, lunch,” Swiatek replied with a grin.

Hurkacz elaborated on his loss to Davidovich Fokina, saying: “Alejandro, he’s playing really well. Hopefully he continues to play that well. Maybe I’ll win some matches against him in singles, as well.”

Swiatek added with a laugh: ”I’m trying to teach Hubie that he doesn’t need a tiebreaker in every set!”


Australia's Alex de Minaur celebrated winning his men's singles win over USA's Taylor Fritz at the United Cup on Monday night at the RAC Arenato put Australia ahead

© Colin Murty/AFP via Getty Images

The night match saw Australia take on defending champions USA in Group C in a must-win tie if the hosts were to have any chance of reaching one of the competition’s two quarter-finals to be played in Perth, after having lost its opening tie to Great Britain.

Alex de Minaur boosted their hopes when he overcame Taylor Fritz, 6-4 6-2, to give the home nation a 1-0 lead over the United States, who would advance to the Last 8 with a win over Australia, after downing Britain 2-1 on Sunday.

“Today was a new year, new me,” de Minaur said. “I was in a great headspace and I played the tennis I wanted to be playing, so I’m very happy with that. Taylor has got some explosive firepower and you can’t let him dictate.

“My mindset was to take it to him from the first ball and take any small chances I had to dictate the point. It doesn’t always work out, but it did today.”

Meeting for the 8th time in their careers, de Minaur played aggressive, front-foot tennis in front of raucous Aussie fans inside the RAC Arena against World No 10 Fritz.

He took the ball early off both wings to rush the American, triumphing after an hour and 34 minutes, and the 24-year-old now leads Fritz 5-3 in career meetings.

Jessica Pegula was made to work by Ajla Tomljanovic, but the World No 5 battled past the Australian to win 7-6(6) 6-3 and level the tie at 1-1, sending it into a deciding mixed-doubles match.

Coming off a tough 3-set loss to Katie Boulter in her season opener, Pegula faced down Tomljanovic to come back from a precarious deficit in each set to engineer her first win of the season.

After failing to hold on to an early break lead in the opening set, Pegula found herself facing set points to Tomljanovic as she served down 5-4.

The American quickly tapped into her trademark fighting qualities, wiping out 3 set points with courageous serving to hold.

Little separated the two in the tiebreak, but Pegula edged ahead at 6-5 to earn her first set point.

Tomljanovic, who spent the bulk of the 2023 season on the sideline due to injury, kept Pegula in the extended set, saving 2 set points before finally relenting after 63 minutes.

The Aussie did not let her disappointment linger, and she broke Pegula early in the second as she built a 3-1 lead before the American once again fought her off.

Although she struggled to find her trademark consistency throughout the match, Pegula found her best ball-striking when it mattered, clawing her way back from a break down to reel off 4 straight games to close out the physical 1-hour 52-minute encounter.


Matt Ebden & Storm Hunter took Team Australia into the quarter-finals by winning the decisive mixed doubles rubber against Jessica Pegula & Rajeev Ram of the United States

© Paul Kane/Getty Images

Hopes hanging by a thread, the tie headed into a winner-takes-all mixed doubles decider, in which Matthew Ebden & Storm Hunter defeated Jessica Pegula & Rajeev Ram, 6-3 6-1, to ensure the home nation topped Group C at the 18-country mixed-teams event.

“This means everything,” Hunter said. “It is a dream come true. Playing in front of the home crowd and playing with Matty, a Perth local, it is a dream come true to win and go into the quarter-finals at home.”

Hunter & Ebden walked onto court inside a packed RAC Arena needing to win in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals.

After a dominant first set, they rallied from a break down in the second to advance after an hour and 2 minutes.

“It’s super up there, super special,” Ebden said. “You can’t almost compare it to anything like Davis Cups, like these team comps that we play for Australia, especially here at home, being West Aussies.

“For me, it’s super exciting, way up there. Some of those great memories, I can’t compare it to anything. It’s up there on its own.”

Hunter & Ebden raised their hands in the air after triumphing, taking in the roars from the raucous crowd, delighted to have steered Australia into the Last 8 as the winners of Group E.


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