GREECE is on the board officially in the 2022 United Cup, with a double-up performance from Maria Sakkari helping secure a 4-1 win over Bulgaria and open the tournament with a win. After leading 2-0 from the opening day, Sakkari won her individual singles match, then came back and got the job done alongside fellow Top 10 talent Stefanos Tsitsipas to ensure the Mediterranean nation got off to the perfect start.
Sakkari started off the day in Perth with a one-hour and 27-minute win over Viktoriya Tomova, a player who had her number six years ago back on the ITF Tour, but had not progressed at the same rate as Sakkari who is intrenched inside the Top 10. The world number six was able to compose herself after dropping an early break, then only losing three of the next 14 games as she stormed to a 6-3 6-2 victory.
It was not a great tie for the Bulgarians, with Tomova having to have a medical timeout and had her lower left leg strapped, but like her compatriot Isabella Shinikova the day before, the top ranked Bulgarian played out the match. Sakkari said she was able to work into the match once she had found the rhythm.
“I was a little nervous in the beginning,” Sakkari said. “Especially being 2-0 up in the tie, I knew my match was crucial to winning. She was very solid at first, but I found my game, found my serve and everything got better.
“[The United Cup format] is unusual but it’s very nice. We get to spend time together, watching each other, so we can learn a lot of things from each other. From the outside you see things differently.”
Sakkari would return to the court with Tsitsipas and notch up another victory in the mixed doubles, which came after Bulgaria got on the board in the men’s singles. Dimitar Kuzmanov registered the European nation’s first win via a 6-1 6-1 demolition job of Michail Pervolarakis.
Greece will no have a break before taking on Belgium in the New Year on Monday and Tuesday, with Bulgaria starting its campaign against Belgium today and tomorrow.
AROUND THE COURTS
Also in Perth, France quickly swept Argentina in a 5-0 fashion courtesy of Caroline Garcia and Adrian Mannarino destroying their opponents. Already holding a 2-0 lead, the top-ranked French players did not waste any time on court with Garcia taking out Nadia Podoroska 6-2 6-0, while Mannarino won 6-1 6-0. Garcia then stepped back onto court with Edouard Roger-Vasselin and produced another win over Podoroska, this time alongside Tomas Etcheverry in straight sets, 6-2 6-4.
Up in Brisbane, Italy was able to secure the tie against Brazil thanks to a pair of wins in the singles. Matteo Berrettini got his chance to step in, and defeated top ranked Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 6-4 7-6, before Lucia Bronzetti easily sipped past Laura Pigossi, 6-0 6-2. The Brazilians did get one back in the doubles though with Rafael Matos and Luisa Stefani defeating Berrettini and Camilla Rosatello in a hard-fought match, 6-4 6-7 10-4.
It was a case of too little, too late for the home nation as Australia grabbed the last two wins of the tie against Great Britain, but still fell short 2-3. The British took full advantage of Ajla Tomljanovic being a late out, with Harriet Dart defeating Maddison Inglis in straight sets 6-4 6-4 to ensure the 3-0 lead. Jason Kubler then produced one of the best set comebacks of all time, with opponent Daniel Evans two points away from winning the second set 6-0, only for Kubler to come back and win it in a tiebreaker, and close out the match 6-3 7-6. Though consolation, the experienced Aussie doubles pairing of Samantha Stosur and John Peers closed out the final tie in straight sets as well.
Staying in Sydney, the United States made good on its strong start to win 4-1 against Czech Republic. Leading 2-0 after the first day, the USA was made to work for it on day two with Petra Kvitova upsetting world number three Jessica Pegula, 7-6 6-4. The favourites got back on top in the second match to secure the overall tie, as Frances Tiafoe knocked out Tomas Machac, albeit via retirement when the Czech was 4-2 up in the second set after Tiafoe won the first, 6-3. The Americans then wrapped up the tie with a doubles win through Pegula and Taylor Fritz against Marie Bouzkova and Jiri Lehecka, 2-6 6-3 10-7.
Switzerland easily stormed past Kazakhstan 5-0 to ultimately knock their opponents out of contention, winning the last three matches on day two. The Swiss did not drop a set on the second day, with Jil Teichmann and Stan Wawrinka both defeating their opponents relatively well. Teichmann defeated Zhibek Kulambayeva 6-3 6-2, before Wawrinka won 6-3 7-6 in a tighter match against Alexander Bublik. Teichmann then stepped back onto the court with day one singles winner Marc-Andrea Huesler in the doubles against Kulambayeva and Bublik, sealing a complete sweep, 7-6 6-3.