Mixed Doubles Drama At The United Cup | ATP Tour

The novelty of the rare mixed doubles combinations in the United Cup is what makes them so compelling. The banter and the byplay between the ATP and WTA players has been refreshing to watch and hear.

Turns out the matches mean something, too.

Look no further than Wednesday’s crucial City Finals in Brisbane and Perth, where Poland and Greece needed their mixed doubles teams to break 2-2 ties and help them advance into the United Cup semi-finals. 

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Of the 18 mixed doubles confrontations in the United Cup’s group play, only one decided the match — when Alexandar Lazarov and Isabella Shinikova upset David Goffin and Elise Mertens to forge a 3-2 victory for Bulgaria over Belgium. But with the elite teams advancing to the City Finals, semi-finals and, ultimately, the Sunday final, it was increasingly possible that a meaningful match would hinge on a mixed doubles result.

It happened when Hubert Hurkacz and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek defeated Lorenzo Musetti and Camilla Rosatello 6-1, 6-2 to capture the city title for Poland. The atmosphere was scintillating. Later, it was the team of Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas that knocked off Croatia’s Borna Gojo and Petra Martic in Perth to send Greece to the final four.

Perhaps presciently, after Poland defeated Kazakhstan in group play, the first two questions in the post-match press conference actually concerned mixed doubles. Swiatek and World No. 10 Hurkacz won their match in straight sets, but all anyone wanted to talk about was Swiatek’s around-the-post winner.

Was it the best shot she’s ever hit?

“I guess it’s for the people to judge,” Swiatek said. “I tried it couple of times in practice and it didn’t work out, so even I’m surprised.”

Captain Agnieszka Radwanska quickly interjected, “You didn’t play mixed doubles in practice, that’s why.”

Swiatek agreed: “That’s true, that’s true. I don’t know. You’ve got to ask people where is the ranking. Aga is a specialist in hot shots. I guess you could make a ranking grade, right?”

As it turned out, Swiatek and Hurkacz eventually were able to work in some mixed doubles practice time.

“It helped us a bit to understand each other on the court,” Hurkacz said. “To work out some patterns, and see how each of us react to different positions. Yeah, it was good.”

Swiatek added: “Playing mixed doubles is [such a] different rhythm, and I haven’t been playing doubles the whole season basically last year, so I’m a little bit rusty. But having Hubi on my side, it’s really helpful, and his game is so powerful that we can really put pressure on our opponents.”

Italy’s Berrettini, whose team advanced despite the decisive mixed doubles defeat against Hurkacz and Swiatek, enjoyed the high stakes of the matchup.

“I think it’s cool how the mixed doubles decides everything. It’s something unique, something that probably we needed in a way,” he said after Team Italy progressed to the semi-finals with the best record of the three losing City Finals teams.

“Personally, I’m having a lot of fun with these guys, with these girls. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often. We go out for dinners and stuff in the other tournaments, but not like this. I’m personally really liking it.”

After City Final play, World No. 3 Jessica Pegula of the United States actually had more wins in mixed doubles than singles. She teamed with Taylor Fritz to defeat the Czech Republic and with Frances Tiafoe to down Germany, both in identical 10-7 Match Tie-breaks. Pegula again teamed with Fritz in a dead rubber to knock off their British opponents in the City Final.

Apparently, Tiafoe was unaware that their win could have had huge implications if the United States had lost its City Final in Sydney to Great Britain.

“He didn’t even know,” Pegula told reporters, drawing a laugh. “I knew. It was very important. I kept trying to tell him. I’m not sure if he, like, grasped the concept, but…”

Said Tiafoe: “Jess has been on me since 8 a.m. this morning. ‘Every match counts. Every match counts.’ Obviously, I’m always going to have fun out there, do my thing. But I wanted to win. Especially playing with Jess — she’s turned me down like 30 times to play.”

Croatia’s Tara Wurth is only 20 years old — and ranked No. 190 among WTA Tour players in singles. And yet, playing with Borna Gojo before the biggest crowd of her young life, she helped contribute a point against Argentina.

“The first set was tough, but as the match goes, Borna was giving me great advice,” she said later. “He was making me laugh. He was just supportive, and in the end I calmed, I focussed on tennis, not on everything that goes around.”

Added Gojo: “As I told her, she should enjoy. It’s a big stage, and it’s why we all play tennis, to play in the stages like this. The best moments are these, and to get a win is even more special.”

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