Iga Swiatek broke down in tears at the United Cup on Friday after a shock loss to Jessica Pegula just days out from the Australian Open. The World No.1 suffered a stunning 6-2 6-2 loss to the World No.3 before the USA completed their victory over Poland on Saturday.
Pegula reversed a run of four straight losses to Swiatek with a commanding victory over the reigning French and US Open champion. Frances Tiafoe then extended the Americans' lead with a 6-3 6-3 win over World No.245 Kacper Zuk.
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But the big talking point was Swiatek's loss, with the Polish superstar a red-hot favourite to win the Australian Open. Pegula broke Swiatek five times and dropped her own serve only once in storming to her first win over the three-time grand slam champion since 2019.
"I've played her in a lot of different places but I definitely feel like these were the fastest conditions," Pegula said. "Also Poland had a tough turnaround yesterday (flying from Brisbane) and we've been lucky enough to have been playing here, and maybe have a little bit of an advantage in being used to the courts.
"So I wanted to take that and use it as much as I could and I did a really good job playing really aggressive, serving smart and returning really well."
Swiatek could be seen in tears after the match, a reaction that divided tennis fans. Some express their sadness for the World No.1, while others accused her of poor sportsmanship.
The 21-year-old later explained: “I just knew that I felt kind of helpless today, because physically and mentally I wasn’t able to kind of show up even, and problem-solve. So it’s always hard when you lose, especially when you’re kind of playing for the team and your country.
“So I was just sad. But, you know, it’s not the first time I cried after a lost match. Nothing special.”
USA advance to United Cup final
Unbeaten in nine singles and doubles matches so far this tournament, Pegula (5-0) and Tiafoe (4-0) put the USA in the box seat before Taylor Fritz secured their place in Sunday's final. On Saturday, Fritz edged Hubert Hurkacz in two tight tie-break sets to give the US an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Fritz also maintained his unbeaten record at the new mixed-gender teams event with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) victory. He said: "It was great to get the win today to get us through. I had no doubt that if I were to lose that the rest of the team would have come through.
"I've played with Team USA a lot but I think it's a huge advantage this time having the girls in our team because it just makes the whole team so much stronger. So I'm super excited going into the finals and I think we've been favourites all week."
Tiafoe said after his win on Friday night: "Let's just keep going. Let's win this thing. My confidence has been pretty high for a little bit. I've been playing some of the best tennis of my life right now and I'm just having fun out there on court.
"Just competing, comfortable in myself, comfortable in my game, and I'm happy with where I'm at. But I can get better."
Italy took a 2-0 lead over Greece in the other semi-final on Friday night. World No.27 Martina Trevisan stunned Maria Sakkari 6-3 6-7 (7-5) 7-5, before Lorenzo Musetti dominated Stefanos Sakellaridis 6-1 6-1.
Matteo Berrettini can seal a spot in the final for Italy when he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday. Lucia Bronzetti is scheduled to take on Despina Papamichail in the other women's singles before the mixed doubles.
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