SWITZERLAND is in the box seat of its opening round United Cup tie against Kazakhstan following day one of action after wins to Belinda Bencic and Marc-Andrea Huesler. The world number 12 Bencic fought back from a 1-4 deficit in the opening set against Yulia Putintseva to grind out a tiebreak victory – to love no less – and record a 7-6 6-3 victory. Huesler also had his work cut out for him, coming back from a set down to win, 4-6 6-3 6-3.
Heading in as favourites and coming off the recent Billie Jean King Cup title, Bencic was facing a nemesis who had bettered her three times from five occasions. Putintseva – minus her partner-in-crime and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina – had to step up to the number one singles mantle. Though she looked red-hot early, the composure of Bencic to overcome some early mistakes and get back on track to win in straight sets was indicative of the world number 12’s ability.
“I’m happy I kept fighting,” Bencic said post-match. “For sure the positive attitude as well from my team, the crowd, and the great atmosphere got me through.”
Despite being on the ropes against Kazakhstan youngster Timofey Skatov early, the 26-year-old Huesler was also able to get back on track, listening to team captain Stan Wawrinka and maintaining his focus during the two-hour and 23-minute triumph. Having won his maiden ATP Tour title in Sofia this year, Huesler has bolted from just inside the Top 200, up to 56th in the world prior to the United Cup.
Needing just one more victory from today’s conclusion in Brisbane, Wawrinka takes on Kazakhstan’s top ranked singles player Alexander Bublik, before Jil Teichmann faces Zhibek Kulambayeva in the women’s singles. Kulambayeva is ranked 441st in the world and is yet to play in the WTA Tour outside of Kazakhstan, with the 22-year-old being a star ITF doubles player with 19 titles on that Tour. Wawrinka and Bencic will then pair up in the mixed doubles to take on Bublik and Putintseva.
ACROSS THE COURTS
Also up in Brisbane, the Italy-Brazil tie is delicately poised after two matches, with Beatriz Haddad Maia and Lorenzo Musetti winning their respective ties. Haddad Maia crushed clay court specialist Martina Trevisan in the number one women’s singles match 6-2 6-0 on the hard court, while Musetti proved too good for Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves, winning in a regulation 6-3 6-4 men’s singles match. Italy is tipped to close out the tie through the singles, with Italian duo Matteo Berrettini and Lucia Bronzetti heavily fancied over Thiago Monteiro and Laura Pigossi respectively.
The other four ties were all one-sided from day one, with Great Britain and the United States on top against Australia and Czech Republic. The late omission of Nick Kyrgios hurt the home nation, with Cameron Norrie proving too good for Alex de Minaur, while Katie Swan knocked off Zoe Hives. The United States kick-started its campaign with victories to Taylor Fritz and Madison Keys over Jiri Lehecka and Marie Bouzkova respectively.
In Perth, Greece started off on the best possible note despite some tough early sets, with Despina Papamichail grinding out a 3-6 6-4 6-1 win over Bulgaria’s Isabella Shinikova. In what was a must-win day for Bulgaria, it was unable to come away with any points from the matches, as Grigor Dimitrov started well against Stefanos Tsitsipas, but the Greek star stepped up to win in three sets, 4-6 6-2 7-6. Top ranked women’s singles talent Maria Sakkari will be in action in both the singles, and mixed doubles with Tsitsipas today. Later on, France posted an easy first two wins over Argentina, with Alize Cornet and Arthur Rinderknech dispatching Maria Carle and Francisco Cerundolo, both in straight sets.