Casper Ruud‘s Australian swing was cut short one year ago as an ankle injury forced his withdrawal from the Australian Open after two ATP Cup wins. The Norwegian will once again begin his season by representing his country Down Under, this time at the inaugural United Cup.
The World No. 3 will need a strong start on Sunday if he is to keep Team Norway alive in its Group E matchup with Brazil. Ruud faces Thiago Monteiro in Brisbane as he looks to earn his nation its first match win of the event and cut into Brazil’s 2-0 lead. Norway requires a Sunday sweep on New Year’s Day to win the tie, with Ulrikke Eikeri set to meet Brazil’s Laura Pigossi in the second singles match, before what Norway hopes will be a decisive mixed-doubles finale.
With the unique, all-inclusive format of the United Cup, even the presence of a 22-time Grand Slam champion is no guarantee of success for Team Spain.
When Rafael Nadal fell on Saturday to Cameron Norrie 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and compatriot Nuria Parrizas Diaz lost to Katie Swan, Great Britain took a daunting 2-0 lead. And yet, there are reasons to think this one might not be over. Two reasons: Paula Badosa and Pablo Carreno Busta, who will carry the flag for Spain.
Badosa has more motivation for her first United Cup match than most. Her opponent, Dart, upset her 6-3, 6-4 back in November at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. “I have another opportunity again to play against [Dart],” Badosa said in a recent press conference. “Great Britain is always a tough tie. I’m preparing for that match, focussed on that. Let’s see how it goes.”
Last April, Badosa rose to a career-high of World No. 2. She won Indian Wells in 2021 and also reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros that season. Carreno Busta has also cracked the Top 10, in 2017, and was the champion in Montreal last year. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (played in 2021), he beat then-World No.1 Novak Djokovic and then-No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on the way to the bronze medal.
Carreno Busta was asked about Spain’s prospects in Group D, which features Great Britain and Spain’s next opponent, Australia.
“It’s the first tournament of the year,” he said, “so we need to improve our level. It’s always difficult to start the year. We need the rhythm. But we are a very good team. We have Rafa, we have Paula. We are ready to fight to win the group and we’ll see.”
Despite the deficit he and his team face, Nadal, ranked No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, is enthusiastically embracing the United Cup format.
“We are used to playing Davis Cup or [Billie Jean King] Cup,” he said before the tournament. “It’s nothing 100 per cent new, but at the same time it’s the first time that we share forces between men and women. It’s a different story for us. It’s going to be exciting.
“I think we can create a good team atmosphere… We know we have a very tough group.”
In a deadlocked Group B tie between Poland and Kazakhstan, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Bublik are set to square off in both singles and mixed doubles, with WTA No. 1 Iga Swiatek pencilled in as Hurkacz’s doubles partner in Brisbane.
What’s on the line on Day 4
Follow links for Saturday match reports
Group A: Belgium and Bulgaria are tied 1-1. Greece is off until Day 5.
Group B: Poland and Kazakhstan are tied 1-1. Switzerland is off until Day 5.
Group C: The Czech Republic leads Germany 2-0. The United States is off until Day 5.
Group D: Great Britain leads Spain 2-0. Australia is off until Day 5.
Group E: Brazil leads Norway 2-0. Italy is off until Day 5.
Group F: Croatia leads Argentina 2-0. France is off until Day 5.
United Cup: Day 4 order of play (local time)
Sydney, Ken Rosewall Arena
Germany vs. Czech Republic (0-2) (Group C)
Laura Siegemund (GER) vs. Petra Kvitova (CZE), 10 a.m.
Oscar Otte (GER) vs. Dalibor Svrcina (CZE), to follow
Julia Lohoff and Fabian Fallert (GER) vs. Jesika Maleckova and Dalibor Svrcina(CZE), to follow
Spain vs. Great Britain (2-0) (Group D)
Paula Badosa (ESP) vs. Harriet Dart (GBR), 5:30 p.m.
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) vs. Daniel Evans (GBR), to follow
Paula Badosa and Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Harriet Dart and Daniel Evans (GBR), to follow
Perth, RAC Arena
Belgium vs. Bulgaria (1-1) (Group A)
Elise Mertens (BEL) vs. Viktoriya Tomova (BUL), 10 a.m.
Zizou Bergs (BEL) vs. Dimitar Kuzmanov (BUL), to follow
Elise Mertens and David Goffin (BEL) vs. Viktoriya Tomova and Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), to follow
Croatia vs. Argentina (2-0) (Group F)
Petra Martic (CRO) vs. Nadia Podoroska (ARG), 5:30 p.m.
Borna Gojo (CRO) vs. Federico Coria (ARG), to follow
Donna Vekic and Borna Coric (CRO) vs. Nadia Podoroska and Francisco Cerundolo (ARG), to follow
Brisbane, Pat Rafter Arena
Brazil (2-0) vs. Norway (Group E)
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) vs. Casper Ruud (NOR), 10 am.
Laura Pigossi (BRA) vs. Ulrikke Eikeri (NOR), to follow
Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos (BRA) vs. Ulrikke Eikeir and Viktor Durasovic (NOR), to follow
Poland vs. Kazakhstan (1-1) (Group B)
Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Alexander Bublik (KAZ), 5:30 p.m.
Magda Linette (POL) vs. Zhibek Kulambayeva (KAZ), to follow
Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. Zhibek Kulambayeva and Alexander Bublik (KAZ), to follow