Sydney | Norway and France score their first wins

There must be something in the Sydney air for all the United Cup ties played there this year, have gone to deciding sets!

On Monday, New Year’s Day, a top-form Casper Ruud led the Norwegians to their first victory by wining his singles rubber and then helping to claim the deciding point in the mixed doubles of their Group F clash with Croatia.

Ruud swept past Borna Coric 6-4 6-1 in just 89-minutes to level the tie after Malene Helgo fell to Donna Vekic who held on for two-hours and 49-minutes before losing her singles 7-5 3-6 6-3 to a player ranked 516 places above her!

“She’s a really good player and her ranking (539) doesn’t do her justice,” said Vekic, a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open last year. “Finally my serve showed up in the third set, which made it easier.”

In the mixed double Ruud partnered Ulrickke Eikeri to defeat Vekic and Ivan Dodig 6-2 3-6 10-7.

“I’m motivated for the new year, I’m fresh and I’m ready,” said world number 11 Ruud. “Another great singles match. I’m very happy to start the new year that way.

And as regards the doubles, he added: “I was pretty fresh from the singles so I was still warm and my shoulder was feeling fine.

“We were playing for the win. We were close I think against the Netherlands (their first opponents). It was another close mixed doubles match that went against our favour. So we tried to come out here and win this one and luckily we did. It was great. It was really fun to play with Ulrikke and I hope we could play more in the future.”

The tight match turned at 7-all in the match tie-break when Ruud nailed a backhand return down the line as Dodig tried to poach. The World No. 11 then closed out the match on his own serve.

“Well that was close,” Eikeri said. “Casper was playing so well at the end. I’m just really happy we were able to pull through.”

Caroline Garcia and Edouard Roger-Vasselin snatch the win against Germany

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

In the evening session it was the turn of France to go through the wringer when they played their opening tie in Group D of the competition against Germany.

And they clinched the tie late in the early hours of Tuesday morning when Caroline Garcia and Edouard Roger-Vasseline defeated Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev 7-6(4) 2-6, 12-10 after saving match points at 9-10 in the Match Tie-break and converted their own third opportunity.

“Crazy match, crazy end. So happy we got through,” Roger-Vasselin said. “We had two match points and they saved them with good shots. But really happy. Thanks for the crowd, for the French crowd who stayed that late. I don’t know what time it is, but I think it’s quite late!”

“I think we managed to stay solid and to keep really focussed,” Garcia said. “Obviously losing the second set was tough for us after winning the tie-break. But we came back – it was a challenge to return Sascha and to try to be ready at the net for the both of us.”

World No. 20 Garcia opened her season with a comeback victory over former World No. 1 Kerber, defeating her 1-6 6-2 6-2. The win levelled France at 1-1 after Zverev’s had earlier defeated Adrian Mannarino 4-6 6-4 6-3 to force the mixed doubles decider.



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