Fri. 29 Dec. 2023 - Sun. 7 Jan. 2024

Germany rallies, stuns Poland for United Cup title

Updated1/7/2024 2:16:00 PM

Germany completed a memorable comeback in the early hours of Monday morning to stun Poland 2-1 in Sydney for the United Cup trophy.

After Alexander Zverev saved two championship points against Hubert Hurkacz, Zverev returned to Ken Rosewall Arena alongside Laura Siegemund to defeat Hurkacz and WTA No. 1 Iga Swiatek 6-4, 5-7, 10-4 for all the glory at 12:45 a.m.

Germany battled from behind throughout the competition. The country finished second in Group D and scraped into the quarter-finals based on percentage of games won. Siegemund and Zverev won deciding mixed doubles matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to ultimately lift the trophy.

"It’s been absolutely amazing. It’s been a pleasure and it’s been absolutely so much fun for everybody to be part of this team, especially for me," Zverev told his teammates during the trophy ceremony. "I really thank you guys for being part of this. I really couldn’t be happier be sharing this trophy with anybody than you guys."

In Saturday's semi-finals, Angelique Kerber saved two match points against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic and Siegemund/Zverev saved two match points against Matthew Ebden and Storm Hunter in a match that ended later than 2:15 a.m.

Germany was on the verge of elimination again in the championship match when Poland's Hurkacz had the title on his racquet at 6/4 in the second-set tie-break. Zverev saved two match points to force the deciding mixed doubles.

"Congrats to Team Poland, amazing run. It was a matter of millimetres today for you guys to be the champions," Zverev said. "I know it is upsetting, but you guys all have I think an amazing season ahead. Hubi and Iga, especially I think. Iga, congratulations on the MVP. I said it before in an interview, I think having you on a team is like having a cheat code on a video game, so it’s amazing what you’ve been doing for the past few years and I think you have a big season ahead."

In the second set, Hurkacz was broken when serving to force a decider, but the Poles showed resilience by breaking to win the set at 6-5.

But Germany surged to the lead early on in the Match Tie-break and the Poles, who won 12 of their 15 matches in the 2024 United Cup, were unable to battle back.

“It was really tight. Last year we made it to the semi-finals, this year to the final so hopefully the next step is going to be winning,” Swiatek said. “For sure we’re making progress and I want to thank my team, all the players, the captain [Tomasz Wiktorowski], who I convinced to be a captain. And he did an amazing job, really supported us throughout the whole tournament.”

Just 20 hours after Zverev led Germany to the United Cup final by winning a deciding mixed doubles match with Siegemund against Australia, the two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion kept his country’s dreams alive once again on Sunday.

Zverev saved two match points to stun Hurkacz 6-7(3), 7-6(6), 6-4, forcing a deciding mixed doubles in the championship clash against Poland. WTA No. 1 Swiatek defeated Kerber earlier in the evening. 

"I have absolutely no idea [how I won]. Also I saved a match point hitting a passing shot this much on the line, so this is how tennis goes sometimes," Zverev said. "You win and lose by millimetres and today I was lucky enough in a way. But obviously it's not over yet. We still have mixed doubles to play and we'll see how that goes."

Hurkacz had the advantage when he walked into Ken Rosewall Arena despite trailing Zverev 0-2 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series. Zverev had played a gruelling three-set singles match Saturday evening against Alex de Minaur and then three sets in doubles.

"I was exhausted. In the middle of the second set I was already exhausted and in the third set I was hanging on a lot of the time and somehow got the break," Zverev said. "Obviously mentally and physically [it was] extremely difficult because playing three days in a row singles and mixed is tough. I'm happy that we're in this position now. We have one more match to play to decide it all."

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But despite showing signs of fatigue at the end of the second set and suffering from the onset of cramps early in the third, Zverev found a way to win against the big-serving Pole.

Hurkacz hit 19 aces according to Infosys ATP Stats and saved the first six break points he faced. But Zverev’s serve proved even more dominant, as the German did not face a break point.

Zverev saved one match point at 4/6 in the second-set tie-break with a stunning forehand passing shot that barely clipped the line. Hurkacz then let slip another opportunity to lift the trophy by missing a neutral crosscourt backhand wide.

After earning the lone service break of the match at 3-3 in the decider, Zverev successfully held the rest of the way to thrill the Sydney fans keen for more action.

World No.1 Swiatek gave Poland the early lead in the final after defeating former No.1 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-0 in the opening rubber. Swiatek's victory was her fifth of the week. 

Hubert Hurkacz will look to seal the win for Poland when he faces Alexander Zverev in the second singles match.

"I felt like she was really picking the right spots to play and she surprised me sometimes with her decision-making and choices,” Swiatek said. “I knew she could play like that but I didn't have much time to get into the rhythm because she was really aiming sometimes these balls inside out.

“With the ball change, I felt like my game could be more dynamic and I could push Angelique more after 4-3."

Swiatek and Kerber had not played since their first meeting, which came amid Swiatek's 37-match win streak in 2022. Then, in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells, the soon-to-be World No.1 came from a set down to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Swiatek came into the match boasting a 17-2 record against left-handed players over the last three seasons, including a perfect 7-0 last year.

As the match began, Kerber showed no signs of any physical hangover from her late-night finish. The former No.1 earned a physical win over Ajla Tomljanovic to help Germany defeat Australia in the semifinals on Saturday night, with the tie finishing at 2:20 a.m. As she slung her forehand with depth and precision, Kerber put early pressure on Swiatek, who gamely saved two break points to hold to 3-2. 

The match remained in the balance in the balance until Swiatek engineered the only break of the set. After saving three more break points on her own serve, Swiatek overpowered the Kerber serve to break to 5-3 and serve out the set. Swiatek finished the set with 21 groundstroke winners to 13 unforced errors. Kerber struck 11 winners to six unforced errors.

Ever the front-runner, Swiatek would run off a streak of nine consecutive games to complete a 70-minute win and maintain her perfect start to the season.