United Cup: Fritz And Keys Shine For USA, Greece’s Tsitsipas Ousts Dimitrov In Epic  - UBITENNIS
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United Cup: Fritz And Keys Shine For USA, Greece’s Tsitsipas Ousts Dimitrov In Epic 



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It was the perfect start to the United Cup for team USA with both of their players winning in straight sets against the Czech Republic. 

On the first day of the new mixed event which offers ranking points and has a prize money pool of $15M, Taylor Fritz got his country off to a strong start by defeating Jiri Lehecka 6-3, 6-4. A 21-year-old Czech who was runner-up to Brandon Nakashima at the Next Gen Finals in November. Fritz remained unbroken throughout the match and won 78% of his first service points. 

“In a team event, first match of the year, there are always some nerves coming out, so it is great to come out and get the team ahead,” Fritz said afterwards. “Hopefully loosen everyone else up. It is a tough position to play if behind, so it is really good for the team.”

Madison Keys continued her country’s winning momentum by defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-3. Keys, who is currently ranked 11th in the world, was forced to battle back from a break down in both sets. 

“I have always typically done pretty well here,” said Keys, who has reached the Australian Open semi-final twice in her career. “I love playing here and I think I just do really well, whether it’s the people or I like playing in the heat. It’s the start of the year, it’s fast and bouncy and suits my game really well.”

During the 2022 season, Keys only reached one Tour final which was at the Adelaide International where she defeated Alison Riske to win the title. She hopes to regain that kind of form at the United Cup where she is relishing the rare opportunity of playing alongside her teammates. 

“We’ve all known each other for a really long time,” she said.
“We’ve been really close for a long time. It’s great having coaching out there, but every time you look over you have people you’ve known forever they’re supporting you. It’s a really great environment.”

Later in the tie, there is a mouthwatering clash between two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and Jessica Pegula. Frances Tiafoe will also play the second men’s singles match on Friday. 

Tsitsipas fights back 

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Greece (L) shakes hands at the net with Grigor Dimitrov of Team Bulgaria – PHOTO CREDIT Tennis Australia/ TREVOR COLLENS

In Group A Greece leads Bulgaria 2-0 after two tough victories in Perth. 29-year-old Despina Papamichail, who is yet to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, battled back from a set down to defeat a weary Isabella Shinikova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Shinikova had treatment on her left quad during the match and was also troubled by hand cramps. 

Papamichail’s win was a big boost for team Greece ahead of one of the tournament’s most intriguing matches on Day one. Stefanos Tsitsipas took to the court to face Grigor Dimitrov in what was a marathon battle that lasted more than two hours with both players having their chance to seal the victory. 

Dimitrov, who is also the captain of his team, had a double chance to break at 4-4 in the decider but failed to convert. Overcoming the scare, Tsitsipas held his nerve to prevail 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4), and earn his 250th ATP win. 

“It was extremely close. I think he was one point away and that made a difference,” Tsitsipas said during his on-court interview.
“I’ll take it. It was a good effort from my side.
“It was quite difficult playing with the heat in the beginning. I was happy the roof closed.
“We enjoyed some high-quality tennis, I was just trying to hang in there, fight. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as Grigor is someone who has done exceptionally well in the past couple of years.
“He’s still got it. He can still compete against the best players in the world and I’m glad I found this little gap in between and gave myself a chance to do something in the tiebreaker.”

Elsewhere at the tournament, Italy and Brazil are currently tied at 1-1. Beatriz Haddad Maia thrashed Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-0 before Lorenzo Musetti dismissed Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3, 6-4. 

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing



Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai



Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro



Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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