Brits back from brink against Spaniards
GREAT Britain is just one win away from qualifying for the knockout stage of the United Cup, after both Cameron Norrie and Katie Swan staged comebacks to help the nation lead Spain 2-0. In a remarkable day of action in Sydney, Norrie and Swan both lost their respective first sets against Rafael Nadal and Nuria Parrizas Diaz, but fought back to celebrate memorable wins on day three.
Norrie dropped the first set 6-3 against world number two Nadal, and looked on track to lose a fifth straight match against the Spaniard. Unlike the previous four though, Norrie fought a way to crack through the Nadal defences, breaking the 22-time Grand Slam winner and levelling the match.
It was the first time the Brit had ever won a set against Nadal, and he was not about to stop there. Having to fight tooth-and-nail the entire match, he broke the 36-year-old again in the third set to secure the 3-6 6-3 6-4 memorable win. Post-match, Norrie said he knew he just had to stick fat with the rally and wait for his opportunities.
“It was a great match,” Norrie said. “At the beginning of the match he was winning some of the tricky points. Him coming to the net and drop-shotting me. I managed to stay tough in the longer rallies and embraced the situation. I think by ranking it is the biggest win of my career.”
In the next match, another underdog in 145th ranked Swan took on the 70th ranked Parrizas Diaz, and like Norrie, dropped the first set 6-3. But somehow she found a way to not only get back in the match, but control it from the start of the second set. The Brit only dropped three more games for the rest of the match as she won 3-6 6-1 6-2 in a remarkable upset.
Great Britain needs just one more win today in order to advance having beaten Australia in the first tie of the series. Paula Badosa will take on Harriet Dart in the number one women’s singles match, while Spanish number two Pablo Carreno Busta will lock horns with Daniel Evans. A mixed doubles clash will follow to potentially decide the winner if Spain can salute in both the singles matches.
AROUND THE COURTS
The night matches were not the only upsets at Ken Rosewall Arena, as Czech Jiri Lehecka put away a rusty Alexander Zverev in straight sets. Zverev has not played in six months and looked decidedly out of match fitness, going down 6-4 6-2 to his lower ranked opponent. That handed Czech Republic an important 2-0 lead, with Marie Bouzkova able to get the job done over Jule Niemeier in the second women’s singles match.
One of only two level ties after two contests from day three was over in Perth, where Bulgaria collected its first win of the tie – and second of the tournament – following Grigor Dimitrov‘s straight sets victory over Belgian David Goffin. Dimitrov went down in a heartbreaking loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first tie, but was able to make good against Goffin to win 6-4 7-5. In the women’s, Alison Van Uytvanck had a shaky second set but managed to put away the plucky Isabella Shinikova in three sets, 6-1 3-6 6-3 at RAC Arena.
Also in Perth, Croatia took a decidedly confident lead over Argentina, with Borna Coric and Donna Vekic both winning in straight sets. The top ranked male was too strong for a determined Francisco Cerundolo, winning 7-5 6-4 to hand the Croatians a lead. Then Vekic came through as expected and put 147th ranked Maria Carle to the sword in a 6-0 6-4 win.
Up north in Brisbane, Brazil made light work of Norway in a surprise to few, as top Brazilian WTA talent Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated 319th ranked Malene Helgo, 6-4 6-2. In the second men’s singles match, Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves also did enough to comfortably defeat second Norwegian, Viktor Durasovic. World number three Norwegian Casper Ruud enters the equation today.
In the final match, Poland and Kazakhstan shared the spoils of day three, with world number one Iga Swiatek far too strong for Yulia Putintseva. The three-time Grand Slam winner started her season off on the right note with a bulldozing 6-1 6-3 victory. Luckily for Kazakhstan, number two singles talent Timofey Skatov toughed it out against lowly ranked Daniel Michalski. After winning the first set in a nail-biting tiebreak, Skatov got home 7-6 6-2 to level the tie.