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Jessica Pegula stuns Iga Swiatek; U.S. sweeps Poland to reach United Cup final

Victoria Chiesa | January 06, 2023


Revenge was sweet for Jessica Pegula on Friday at the United Cup.

 

Her dominant 6-2, 6-2 victory over world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the first rubber of the United States' semifinal tie against Poland gave the Americans a lead they'd never relinquish. By the end of the two-day tie, the U.S. booked a spot in the final with a 5-0 sweep. 

 

Pegula had lost to Swiatek four times in 2022, including in quarterfinals of three of the four Grand Slams.

 

"What can I say? Jess came out and played unbelievable," U.S. captain David Witt, Pegula's personal coach, later told reporters. "Iga is such a tough opponent to play. She's always in the match and you can't let up at all. We have been working on a lot of things, and a lot of the things paid off today. I'm happy for Jess."

Day 1: Pegula earns her Swiatek revenge; Tiafoe adjusts to late replacement

Pegula set the tone for the match by winning the first seven points against Swiatek. Aggressive returning was a hallmark for Pegula throughout the 71-minute victory; she opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set on three clean return winners, and broke Swiatek five times in the match overall. 

 

Pegula nearly led wire-to-wire; she only trailed after the first game of the second set, in which Swiatek held serve. 

 

It was Pegula's first win against Swiatek since 2019. Afterwards, the top-ranked American said that there were several intangibles that worked in her favor—including the fact that the Polish team had to travel from Brisbane to Sydney after winning their pool.

"Conditions are totally different than anywhere else I play her," Pegula said. "Obviously, maybe I had a little bit of an advantage, they just flew in yesterday. Definitely the fastest conditions I have played her. Every other place I've played her has been pretty slow. I think that favored me a lot, and I was able to use that to my advantage and play a really super clean match.

 

"I think I just was able to execute my game plan probably better than I have previous times."

 

Riding the momentum earned by Pegula's opening win, Tiafoe eased to a 6-3, 6-3 victory against Poland's Kacper Zuk, ranked No. 245. He replaced No. 260 Daniel Michalski, who was forced out with illness. 

 

"Seeing Jess play today inspired me a lot. Super happy for her," Tiafoe said. "I didn't even know my first opponent I was supposed to play. So when they switched it, I was, like, All right, great, I'm in the same position. ... I was just going to kind of wing it and see what happens. Feel the guy out a little bit and kind of see what happens. Try to just worry about my side of the court and we'll figure it out.

 

"There's going to be ups and downs. Hit some crazy shots today. Just had a lot of fun. I thought it was a great level. The other guy actually played a pretty high level. It was fun."

 

Day 2: Fritz delivers the clincher; Keys downs Linette in Billie Jean King Cup rematch

With the U.S. needing just one win to book its spot in the final, the team recorded all three to finish off the sweep with the loss of just one set.

 

Fritz beat Hubert Hurkacz in two tiebreaks 7-6(5), 7-6(5) to give the U.S. an unassailable 3-0 lead. For good measure, Madison Keys defeated Magda Linette 6-4, 6-2--reversing the result of their Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals match in November--before Fritz and Pegula finished off the tie with a 6-7(5), 6-4, [10-5] win over Alicja Rosolska and Lukasz Kubot.

Hurkacz had two set points at 5-4 in the first set, and also had 15-40 on Fritz's serve at 5-5 in the second set, but converted on none of those opportunities. 

 

"It was great to get the win today to get us through," Fritz said. "I had no doubt that if I were to lose that the rest of the team would have come through. But I've played with Team USA a lot.

 

"I think it's a huge advantage this time having the girls on our team because it just makes the whole team so much stronger.

 

"I'm super excited going into the final and I think we've been the favorites all week."

 

In four ties against the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain and Poland, the U.S. won 18 of 20 matches it played. 

The U.S. will face Italy in the United Cup final. The Italians defeated Greece 4-1 in the other semifinal, thanks in part to 2022 Roland Garros semifinalist Martina Trevisan's three-plus-hour win over Maria Sakkari. 

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