The novelty of rare mixed doubles sets in United Cup is what makes it so compelling. The banter and play between ATP and WTA players was refreshing to watch and listen.
Turns out, matches mean something, too.
Look no further than Wednesday’s crucial City Finals in Brisbane and Perth, where Poland and Greece needed the mixed doubles teams to break a 2-2 tie and help them advance to the United Cup semi final.
Among the 18 mixed doubles encounters in United CupTeam play, only one decides the match – when Alexander Lazarov And Isabella Shinnikova was upset David Goffin and Elise Mertens for Bulgaria’s 3-2 win over Belgium. But as the elite teams progressed to the City Finals, the Semi-Finals and, ultimately, Sunday’s Final, it was increasingly possible for a meaningful match to hinge on the outcome of the mixed doubles.
It happened when Hubert Hurkach and defeated world No. 1 Iga Swiatek Lorenzo Musetti and Camila Rosatello 6-1 6-2 to claim the city title for Poland. The atmosphere was sparkling. Later, it was the team of Maria Scari and Stefanos Tsitsipas that overthrew Croatia Burna Jojo and Petra Martic in Perth to send Greece into the quarter-finals.
Perhaps, after Poland defeated Kazakhstan in group play, the first two questions in the post-match press conference may have already concerned mixed doubles. World number 10 Swiatek and Hurkacz won their match in straight sets, but all anyone wanted to talk about was Swiatek’s winner.
Was it the best shot you ever hit?
“I think people have a right to judge,” Swiatek said. “I’ve tried it several times in practice and it didn’t work, so even I’m surprised.”
Captain Agnieszka Radwanska quickly interjected, “You never played mixed doubles in practice, that’s why.”
Swiatek agreed: “That’s right, that’s right. I don’t know. You have to ask people where the ranking is. Aga specializes in hot shots. I guess you can get a rating score, right?”
As it turned out, Swiatek and Hurkacz eventually managed to work some mixed doubles training times.
“It helped us a little bit to understand each other on the court,” Hurkacz said. “To work out some patterns, and see how each of us reacts to different situations. Yeah, it was good.”
Swiatek added: “Playing mixed doubles is [such a] Different tempo, and I didn’t play doubles all season basically last year, so I’m a bit rusty. But having Hubi on my side, it’s really helpful, and his game is so strong that we can really put pressure on our opponents.”
Italian Brittini, whose team advanced despite a decisive defeat in the mixed doubles by Hurkacz and Soatek, enjoyed the high stakes in the match.
“I think it’s great how mixed doubles decides everything,” he said after Italy qualified for the semi-finals with the best record out of the three losing teams at the City finals. “It’s something unique, something that maybe we need in some way.”
“Personally, I have a lot of fun with these guys, with these girls. It’s something that doesn’t happen often. We go out to dinner and stuff at other tournaments, but not like that. Personally, I really like it.”
After the City final, United States world number three Jessica Pegula had more wins in mixed doubles than singles. cooperated with Taylor Fritz To defeat the Czech Republic and with him Francis Tiafoe To bottom Germany, both are on identical 10-7 tie-breakers. Pegula again teamed up with Fritz in a dead rubber game to beat their British opponents in the city final.
🇺🇸 USA 🇺🇸@tweet And @tweet Sealing victory over the Czech team, 2-6, 6-3, 10-7! #UnitedCup pic.twitter.com/HWGaGv8kBk
– United Cup (UnitedCupTennis) December 30, 2022
Apparently, Tiafoe wasn’t aware that their victory could have major ramifications if the USA lost the city final in Sydney to Great Britain.
“He didn’t even know,” Pegula told reporters, laughing. “I knew. It was very important. I kept trying to tell him. I’m not sure if he understood the concept, but…”
Said Tiafoe: “Jess has been on me since 8 o’clock this morning. Every game counts. Every game counts. Obviously, I will always have fun out there, doing something. But I wanted to win. Especially to play with Jess – she turned me down 30 times to play” .
Croatian Tara Worth is only 20 years old – she ranks 190th among WTA players in singles. However, play with Burna Jojo Before the biggest crowd of her young life, she helped lead up to a point against Argentina.
“The first set was tough, but as the match went on Borna was giving me great advice,” she later said. “He was making me laugh. He was just supportive, and eventually I calmed down, focused on tennis, and not everything that was going on around him.”
Gojo added, “As I told her, you should have fun. It’s a big stage, that’s why we all play tennis, and we play on stages like this. The best moments are these, and winning is even more special.”