Perth | Spain and Great Britain score first wins in United Cup

The first matches of the 2024 season got under way at the United Cup in Perth, Western Australia, where Spain got past Brazil before Great Britain upset Australia in the  openingnight tie of Day 1 on Friday.

I really had to dig deep and play very brave in that third set. He came out at the end of the second set he was firing. I had to dig deep and play to win and in that tiebreak, I found good depth on my forehand. The balls got a little bit older and I really had to hit the ball. Cameron Norrie

The mixed team competition sees 18 nations playing in Perth and Sydney, where the matches will begin on Saturday.

Two quarter-finalists will be determined from each of the Perth and Sydney round robin groups, with the semi-finals and the final set for Sydney on 6th and 7th January.

The format sees men’s and women’s singles matches played ahead of mixed doubles, the same as used by the highly-successful Hopman Cup that was formerly played in Perth.

The World No 1 woman, Iga Swiatek, is representing Poland and playing in Perth, while top-ranked and defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic leads Serbia, also in Perth.

Serbia will take on China on Sunday, and the Czech Republic on Tuesday in the Group E, with Djokovic set to face World No 58 Zhang Zhizhen and No 31-ranked Jiri Lehecka in his men’s singles matches.

Djokovic last visited Perth in 2013 when he played at the Hopman Cup.

“It feels great, it’s been a while since I was here last,” Djokovic said. “I remember every single time I played in Perth it was great attendance, people love tennis, people love sport in Australia in general. So I don’t expect anything less this time, and I’m sure it’s going to be a blast for all of us.”


Alejandro Davidovich Fokina led Team Spain to a 2-1 over Brazil to top Group A of the United Cup in Perth

© Paul Kane/Getty Images

Opening proceedings was Spain against Brazil, and it was Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who kick-started his season with a comfortable win when he dispatched Thiago Seyboth Wild, 6-4 6-0, to give Spain an early 1-0 lead.

The World No 26 was consistent from the baseline against 79th-ranked Seyboth Wild, striking the ball cleanly off both wings to outlast the Brazilian.

The Spaniard did not face a break point, winning 79%, 30 of 38 points of his first-serve points to triumph.

Beatriz Haddad Maia struck back for Brazil by defeating Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, 7-6(1) 6-2, in the second Group A rubber, levelling the tie at 1-1 and sending it into a deciding mixed doubles contest.

In their most recent previous meeting, Haddad Maia took 3 hours and 51 minutes to outlast Sorribes Tormo in the 4th-round of last year’s Roland Garros, which was 2023’s longest WTA match, but her win in Perth was was much more straightforward, taking 2 hours and 6 minutes to get past the Spaniard.

The win improves her record over the World No 48 to 4-2, after she went a perfect 5-for-5 on break points in the encounter.

Haddad Maia relied on her powerful lefty forehand to overcome the superb foot speed of Sorribes Tormo, and swept through the tiebreak at the end of a closely-matched first set.

The 27-year-old Brazilian was a point away from falling behind 3-0 in the second, though, but she reeled off 6 games in a row from there to collect the straight-sets win.


Beatriz Haddad Maia levelled the tie by beating Sara Sorribes Tormo for Brazil but then went down in the deciding mixed doubles

© Will Russell/Getty Images

The tie came down to a deciding doubles rubber, with Davidovich Fokina & Sorribes Tormo defeating Haddad Maia and two-time Grand Slam winner Marcelo Melo, 6-4 7-5, to top Group A with a 2-1 win.

The Spaniards recovered from squandering a break advantage in the second set, composing themselves to reel off the final 3 games to triumph in 1 hour and 37 minutes, but the end of the match was tight, with Brazil saving a match point before falling seconds later.

“I knew I had to be calm near the end,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I needed to focus on every point — in doubles things can change very quickly.”

Sorribes Tormo credited her compatriot with pulling them through.

“When you have your team behind you and such an amazing partner, everything is easier,” she said. “This was my first mixed doubles; I’m very happy to win.”

Spain are playing without Rafael Nadal, with the 37-year-old ending a year-long injury absence at the Brisbane International instead.


Cameron Norrie edged past Alex de Minaur to set Team GB on the way to an impressive win over hosts Australia

© Will Russell/Getty Images

Later, hosts Australia faced Britain, when Alex de Minaur, ranked 12, faced off against Cameron Norrie, who had lost his past 9 matches against opponents ranked inside the world’s Top 20.

The British No 1, who is ranked 18 in the world, took the opening set with relative ease, only to be pegged back in the second before trailing on serve in the decider, but he dominated the 3rd-set breaker to come through, 6-4 2-6 7-6(2), after 2 hours 23 minutes to snatch a 1-0 lead in the tie.

“I really had to dig deep and play very brave in that third set,” Norrie said. “He came out at the end of the second set he was firing.

“I had to dig deep and play to win and in that tiebreak, I found good depth on my forehand. The balls got a little bit older and I really had to hit the ball.

“It is always tough playing Alex. He is a good friend of mine and we always have battles. I knew I would have to run a lot today and I did. It was a great atmosphere.”


Katie Boulter scored an emphatic win over Ajla Tomljanovic to seal the win over Australia but lost the mixed doubles rubber

© Will Russell/Getty Images

Katie Boulter then ensured Great Britain made a winning start at the United Cup with an impressive win over Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-2 6-4.

Britain’s top-ranked women’s player took charge from the outset and raced out to a 4-0 first-set lead on her way to an assured straight-sets win, which gave Team GB an unassailable 2-0 lead.

She struck 14 winners and 8 aces in total in a notably clutch performance in which she saved all 6 break points against her, while converting all 3 of her opportunities on the Tomljanovic serve.

Boulter’s confident form was evident from the outset as a sequence of flashy returns garnered her a quick double-break lead, during which swatted away 3 break points with 2 aces and a forehand winner.

In the second set, Boulter maintained her momentum to gain an immediate break in the first game, and fended off 3 more break points in the 6th game to preserve her lead.

Tomljanovic, who mustered only 2 winners off the ground in each set, was unable to make any more inroads on return, and Boulter wrapped up the win with a clean love hold.

Boulter then teamed up with Neal Skupski to face Storm Hunter & Matthew Ebden in the concluding mixed doubles rubber, looking for a clean sweep in the tie, but they were thwarted by the Aussies.

It so happened that Hunter & Ebden defeated the British pair, 6-3 7-6(5) in a high quality encounter to ensure that Australia recorded one match win on Day 1.

Britain, who reached the quarter-finals of the tournament’s inaugural edition last year, will meet defending champions USA in their final Group C match on Sunday.


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