World No. 118 Laura Pigossi defeated Ulrikke Eikeri 6-3 6-4 to clinch a win for Brazil. Pigossi’s victory gave the Brazilians an unassailable 3-1 lead over Norway and the country will finish Group E with a 1-1 record.
In the first men’s singles match of the new year, Ruud defeated Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 6-3, 6-2 to narrow the deficit to 1-2 in the tie.
“It was a must-win, so I was maybe feeling the pressure a little bit, but I was able to come out with a good start and starting the new year in tennis down in Australia feels great. It’s always exciting to be here. My first time in Brisbane, so it’s been a great few days so far. I’m really enjoying the city and thanks to everyone who came out first day of the year to watch some tennis.”
Ruud picked up where he left off in a standout 2022 season, during which he climbed as high as No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and advanced to the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals. Despite a slight hiccup when he fell behind 0-2 in the second set, the Norwegian stormed through the final six games of the match to triumph after 72 minutes.
“I always feel very motivated coming down here playing in Australia. Last year was a bit unfortunate. I was not able to play in the Australian Open. I rolled my ankle the day before my first round, so I’m very eager to hopefully have a good start of the season down here and this is a perfect way for me to start another year on Tour.”
Monteiro’s forehand was his undoing in the early going, as a slew of unforced errors allowed Ruud to find his comfort zone inside Pat Rafter Arena.
Although Ruud pushed a forehand long to fall behind a break in the second set, he never panicked, nor did he appear in trouble. The 24-year-old converted five of his six break point chances to take a 3-0 ATP Head2Head lead against Monteiro. He has not lost a set in any of those matches.
With the pressure to close out the Brazillian victory, Pigossi put forth a physical effort to best World No. 388 Eikeri. Pigossi needed one hour and 50 minutes to close out the 30-year-old Norwegian, who counts doubles as her primary discipline.
Last spring at Roland Garros, Eikeri became the first Norwegian man or woman to make a Grand Slam final, doing so in mixed doubles. Ruud matched her feat a few days later when he made his first major final.
But Eikeri could not upend Pigossi, who is coming off the best season of her career, having made her first WTA singles final in Bogota last spring.