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U.S. sweeps Italy to win inaugural United Cup

Victoria Chiesa | January 08, 2023


The inaugural United Cup is leaving Australia in U.S. hands after the Americans swept Italy 4-0 in Sunday's final in Sydney.

 

As the only team of the 18 that began the competition to boast four Top 20 players on its roster, the U.S. were heavy favorites from the start of the new combined ATP and WTA mixed-gender team event. They played like it: In all, the Americans went 22-2 across five ties. U.S. No. 1s Taylor Fritz and Jessica Pegula went 6-1 and 8-1, respectively, across singles and doubles, while Madison Keys and Frances Tiafoe won all 11 of their matches combined.

 

Against the Italians, that form continued. In order, Pegula, Tiafoe and Keys lost just 13 games in five sets played, and Fritz improved his record in tiebreaks this year to 4-0 with a pair won against Matteo Berrettini—a 7-6(4), 7-6(6) win that clinched the title for the U.S. team.

"I had a blast these two weeks. It was a lot of fun," U.S. captain David Witt, Pegula's personal coach, said afterwards. "A lot of tennis watching, but I had a blast. I feel like I'm at home with my eight kids. This is like the Brady Bunch on something. It's crazy. It was fun. What a family. That's all I've got to say."

 

Pegula set the tone for the final with a 6-4, 6-2 win over 2022 Roland Garros semifinalist Martina Trevisan in the first rubber. Going unbeaten for the competition after an opening loss to Petra Kvitova in the U.S.'s first round-robin tie, the highest-ranking American woman credited team chemistry and syngery (and the power of off-court teamwork) for helping power the squad to the title.  

 

"We've had a really great eternity in Sydney. It's been really fun though. We have been bonding a lot, I feel like getting to know each other a lot," Pegula said.

"This was just a good team. It was a good team from the start. I did not think I'd be doing escape rooms with these people. That was not my first thought coming into this. I didn't know what to do, and then, next thing I know, we're doing escape rooms like three in like one week. Literally everyone last night was, 'We need to do an escape room again to keep the team chemistry going.' I did not think that was going to happen coming into this. Hey, here we are. It was fun."

 

Equally as important was the power of depth, something that's been a strength of U.S. tennis for the last year-plus. For ATP stars Fritz and Tiafoe, having top-ranked WTA peers by their side was something to celebrate. The trophy proved a bonus.

 

"From the guys' side, I said this last year, before we even came into this, I said, having the women playing with us just makes the team a lot stronger from the guys' side," Fritz said. "We've struggled a bit, I'd say... Having the women with us makes the team a lot stronger. I think what I said back when they asked us a couple months ago was I'm excited to get carried in this event.

 

"From our side it's been great to get the extra help. And like Jess said, like this team, we did a lot of stuff off the court, bonded. It was great."

 

"Seeing these guys do their thing, it's special," Tiafoe added. "Like seeing Fritz the last couple days play -- can't lose a tiebreaker, is insane. Seeing Jessica give an absolute lesson to the world No. 1 [Iga Swiatek in the semifinals] is crazy. Madison winning a huge match to get us over the line the other day against Great Britain, it's just crazy.

 

"I'm just happy to get through it and to be a champ. It always feels good to drink champagne on Sunday."

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