Team Greece, already leading 2-0 from the previous day’s action, sealed the first victory of Group A at the United Cup in Perth after the 6th world ranked Maria Sakkari defeated Viktoriya Tomova 6-3 6-2 in one hour and 27-minutes, giving her team an unassailable 3-0 lead over Team Bulgaria.
I knew my match was crucial to winning. She was very solid at first, but I found my game, found my serve and everything got better Maria Sakkari
The first half of the opening set was tightly contested, with Tomova, ranked 90, using her defensive skills to keep Sakkari on the move and on the back foot especially when the Bulgarian got an early break to lead 2-1.
Sakkari quickly rectified that blip and the rubber settled into a battle of attrition until he seventh game when the Bulgarian called for the physio to have her left leg strapped and from that moment, she changed her tactics by trying to keep the points short only to be broken and fall 3-5 behind. Sakkari followed that up by claiming the set with a forehand winner.
The injury was the second suffered by Team Bulgaria for Isabella Shinikova had required medical attention 24-hours earlier before being defeated, a fate which was to also befall Tomova for she couldn’t respond to Sakkari’s assault in the second set which she dominated with her serve.
“I was a little nervous in the beginning,” said Sakkari. “Especially being 2-0 up in the tie, I knew my match was crucial to winning. She was very solid at first, but I found my game, found my serve and everything got better.
“[The United Cup format] is unusual but it’s very nice. We get to spend time together, watching each other, so we can learn a lot of things from each other. From the outside you see things differently.”
In the next match at the RAC Arena, Dimitar Kuzmanov registered Team Bulgaria’s first United Cup match win as he outplayed Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis over 68-minutes, 6-1 6-1.
In the mixed doubles rubber, Team Greece’s Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Bulgaria’s Adrian Andreev and Gergana Topalova 6-4 6-4 to secure the tie 4-1.
In the late Perth session, the world No.4 Caroline Garcia dispatched Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska 6-2 6-0 in just 64-minutes to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in their United Cup Group F tie, racking up 24 winners in just 14 games.
Podoroska, who was sidelined due to injury for 10 months between 2021 and mid-2022, always had a tough task ahead of her to get Team Argentina back into the contest and didn’t help her cause when she foot faulted twice in the opening game which contributed to a couple of double faults, the second when break point down.
Garcia took full advantage of her opponent’s nerves, charging the net on a regular basis and she dominated with her serve and conceded just two points on her first serve while never facing a break point.
Even the two games Podoroska won, were after she saved break points!
“I felt very good,” Garcia said afterwards. “It’s never easy to start a new season, and it’s a new format of competition. I wanted to play well for myself, to put my game together after a good few weeks of practice, but competition is always different. Obviously beyond that I wanted to help my team to win the tie, so I’m very happy with my performance.”
France’s unbeaten start to the inaugural United Cup was later extended by Adrian Mannarino, world ranked 46, who proved too strong for Federico Coria whom he trounced 6-1 6-0 victory in just 62 minutes.
Mannarino said in his post-match press conference. “I was able to run well, that’s the first thing, and then it was just a question of luck. I was feeling good on the court.”
Team France’s mixed-doubles duo of Garcia and playing captain Edouard Roger-Vasselin then completed a 5-0 clean sweep for the sixth-seeded nation in its opening tie. The partnership defeated Podoroska and Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-2 6-4 to ensure its team won the tie without dropping a single set across the five matches.