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Jubilation ace inaugural United Cup champs crowned

The United States claimed the inaugural United Cup on Sunday in convincing fashion with an overpowering display over Italy in the final of the mixed-teams event.

No.9-ranked Taylor Fritz gave the US an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five match-up by edging former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7).

The Indian Wells Masters champion failed to convert nine break points but faced none on his own serve and proved the steadier player in the two tiebreakers.

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He was mobbed by his teammates at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena after clinching the title for the Americans.

“We came in with really high hopes before the start of the event and I was really happy to be in the position to clinch the match and just the emotions when you win and everyone comes running at you, it is amazing,” Fritz said.

“We have gotten a lot of team bonding this week and it was a lot of fun.”

Jessica Pegula put the US on the path to victory by beating Martina Trevisan 6-4, 6-2, continuing her strong form, which included a win over top-ranked Iga Swiatek on Friday.

Frances Tiafoe, a 2022 US Open semi-finalist, extended the lead when Lorenzo Musetti withdrew with a shoulder injury after losing the first set of their match 6-2.

The singles match between Madison Keys and Lucia Bronzetti was rendered a dead rubber in terms of the title, though ranking points and prizemoney were on offer.

The US was considered favorite for the 18-nation tournament based on the strength of a team where all four singles players were ranked inside the world’s top 20.

Heading into the final, the US had lost just two of the 20 rubbers it played in ties against the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain and Poland.

Dual-Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated Pegula in the opening tie of the event, while 2022 Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie beat Fritz in three sets on January 4.

Similar to Fritz’s 7-6, 7-6 victory over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday, the clash between Fritz and Berrettini was dominated by serving.

But Berrettini, who fell in three sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a semi-final against Greece on Saturday, lost his composure early in the first tiebreaker and late in the second to give Fritz the victory.

“I had a lot of chances in there and he kept playing so well on those chances, so he made it really tough for me,” Fritz said.

Pegula claimed the first three games against Trevisan and then withstood a challenge from the No.27-ranked player late in the first set on the way to a solid victory.

No.3-ranked Pegula said that as her team’s top-ranked player of either sex, she wanted to lead by example.

“I wanted to win because I am the No.1 American on the team. I wanted to embrace that. I did not want to shy away from that,” she said.

Tiafoe, ranked No.19, was in a dominant position against Musetti when the Italian ended the match on the opening point of the second set.

The 20-year-old had earlier received medical treatment after dropping serve to trail 5-2 in the opening set.

US coach David Witt, who is also Pegula’s individual coach, praised his players for their teamwork.

“It has been an honor to be a coach of them and enjoy the time we have had together. It has been awesome,” he said.

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