AP – Jessica Pegula’s rout of world number one Iga Swiatek at the United Cup in Sydney yesterday has placed the United States (US) in a dominant position to progress to the final of the mixed teams event.
The American defeated Swiatek 6-2, 6-2, leaving the world’s top-ranked woman sobbing afterwards as she struggled to cope with the magnitude of what was a rare defeat over the past 12 months.
Frances Tiafoe later gave the US a 2-0 lead over Poland in the first semifinal by defeating Kacper Zuk 6-3, 6-3 in a convincing display at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Taylor Fritz can clinch a spot in the final for the US when he plays world number 10 Hubert Hurkacz in the third singles to open play today.
Swiatek had won all four of clashes against Pegula last year and was considered a dominant favourite for the Australian Open beginning on January 16. But the assertive play of Pegula, who adopted an aggressive position when returning Swiatek’s serve, reaped rich rewards for the world number three in what proved a mismatch.
The 28-year-old, who reached quarter-finals in three Grand Slam tournaments last year, said she benefitted from her familiarity with Ken Rosewall Arena and the swiftness of the court. The US was based in Sydney during the group stages of the inaugural tournament, while the Swiatek-led Poland progressed from the Brisbane section of the 18-nation event.
With her head covered by a towel as she sat alongside Poland’s captain Aga Radwanska, Swiatek cried as she listened as her rival explained why the conditions suited her.
“I played her in a lot of different places but… these were definitely the fastest conditions,” Pegula said. “I am also aware they had a quick turnaround (on Thursday) flying here, where we have been lucky enough having maybe a little bit of an advantage being used to the courts.
“I wanted to take that as much as I could and use it as much as I could and I thought I did a really good job of playing aggressively, serving smart and returning really well.”