what worked and what didn’t

what worked and what didn’t
what worked and what didn’t
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L’Italy came close, making it to the final at the inaugural edition, but in the end it was heavy favorites the United States to win the first-ever United Cup. A team that, given the format adopted by the competition, could only start ahead of everyone in the predictions and that, punctually, respected them. The Team USA he was in fact the only national team he could count on four top20two for men and two for women, which in fact already guaranteed at least two points. Number two Francis Tiafoe And Madison Keys (who today makes his return to the top 10 after almost three and a half years) have often found themselves facing opponents far behind in the standingsalways ending up winning their respective matches, both leaving only one set on the street.

This does not mean, in any case, that the contribution of Taylor Fritz And Jessica Pegula. Simply to them, as n°1, they are always touched more complicated matches from the point of view of ranking. Both managed just one defeat – against Norrie and Kvitova – but contributed with very important victories for different purposes tie. Often the two have also paired up in the mixed doubles, getting three hits out of as many games. Just mixed doubles, point of reference and show of team competitions (as it was during the Hopman Cup, whose underlying idea is not so dissimilar from the United Cup), is the first topic of discussion.

Decisive Mixed Doubles: Does It Really Make Sense?

The question that probably everyone or almost everyone has asked is: it really makes sense to leave mixed doubles as the last match? Some may like it – Iga Swiatek stated that having mixed as the decisive match “it’s fantastic and exciting” – but other samples like Rafael Nadal or Casper Ruud have never participated in these matches, since the result of the tie was already widely acquired.

The solution, a bit like it was customary to do in the ancient format of the Davis Cupcould be that of enshrine mixed doubles as the third match. This choice could also shuffle the cards of the summonswith captains who might choose to carry a few more pure double players as it would be certain that the match would be played with a totally different specific gravity from the current one. Furthermore, in a format that includes four singles and a doubles, it would be more coherent if, in the event of a 2-2, the decisive point was decreed by a singles matchas four out of five matches are played this way.

United Cup, case dead rubber: how to minimize them

Whether one can legitimately agree or not on the mixed doubles issue, a topic that has triggered several critical issues has been the dead rubber, i.e. those matches whose final result is useless for qualification purposes. To trigger the question, after the defeat against Alex De Minaur, Rafael Nadal thought about it in the press conference. The Majorcan stated that, from his point of view, the loser of the first tie should face the team that hasn’t played yet. It happened, in fact, that Spain and Australia met in the last one tie of Group D, after both teams had previously lost to Great Britain, who had therefore already qualified.

Although it is true that, at those levels, there is never really absolute zero at stake – every single match offered certain points for the ATP and WTA rankings and, above all, a nice nest egg – it is also clear that it’s never nice to take the field knowing that you don’t have the possibility to continue in the tournament.

In any competition that features a group stagehowever, it’s almost impossible to totally get rid of the dead rubber. Practically every year, for example, it happens that one or more players are at the ATP Finals aware of their destiny even before playing their third match (with the same speech that can obviously also be extended to the WTA Finals or the group stages of the Billie Jean King Cup or Davis Cup).

In Group E, for example, Italy And Brazil they faced each other in the first tie with the victory of blue for 3-2. The third nation of the group – the Norway – made his debut against the losers of the first match – Brazil – exactly as Rafa suggested, losing 4-1. If the Scandinavians had been overwhelmed 5-0 by the South Americans, they would have gone to the match against Italy with the certainty that, even if they won 5-0, they could not have won the group and therefore qualified.


At the end of this scenario, in fact, all three nations would have won a tiebut Brazil would finish first due to the greater number of single matches won within single clashes (7-3). Norway, at most, could have finished second (5-5), with Italy closing the group in last place (3-7).

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Still remaining in the field of hypotheses, it is evident that in the above conditions Italy-Norway would still have been a match dead rubber. For such a situation to occur, however, several consequences must occur. If therefore i dead rubber they can’t be eliminated entirely, of course can be drastically reduced following Nadal’s advice, that is by having the second match played tie to the team that has not yet taken the field against the one that lost the first tie.

Many positive aspects for being the first time

To be a rookie competition, in any case, the balance of the first United Cup edition is more than positive. Many players stayed definitely satisfied from the holding of the event, which is considered both useful to prepare for the Australian Open and a good opportunity to spend some time in a group in a sport that 95% of the year is individual. Many top tier players have responded present, as demonstrated by the 9 top10 present (5 men and 4 women) and the various top20 and top30 present. There are all the chances that they will confirm their presence again next year, as well as the possibility that they can be added, for example, a Carlos Alcaraz not injured or a Novak Djokovic which, when team entries closed, it still was banned from Australia.

Also several fans scattered in the Down Underwho have received largely unanimous compliments from players across conferences, must have appreciated the possibility to attend matches in three different cities. The players perhaps a little less, given that for example Greece had to move more than 4000 kilometers to reach the United States in Sydney to play the final stages. The Americans themselves, on the other hand, always remained in the same throughout the event locationaccustomed by now to the same time zone, weather conditions and temperature.

There may be two solutions to avoid these discrepancies. The first would be to insert a fourth city among the venues of the matches in which to play only semi-finals and finals, such as for example Melbourne. The second possibility would be to let it pass two daysinstead of just one, among the city ​​final and the semi-finals, thus allowing those who have to travel to have a whole day to test the different conditions of the “new” fields, given that we are talking about very minimal differences.

For those who do not agree with the observations made so far, or for anyone wishing to express themselves and comment on the progress of the United Cup 2023, the appointment is postponed to this evening (Monday 09/01) at 21. On the Ubitennis twitter profile, in fact, the first Twitter Space of the yearconducted as always by Vanni Gibertini and Marco Lorenzoni, in which listeners will be able to freely intervene and have their say.

The article is in Italian

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