Team United States sprinted to a 2-0 lead against Team Poland on Friday in the United Cup Final Four, and American Taylor Fritz finished the job Saturday morning. The reigning BNP Paribas Open champion clawed past Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in the No. 1 men's singles match to give his country an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Jessica Pegula upset World No. 1 Iga Swiatek and Frances Tiafoe eased past Kacper Zuk to earn the Americans their first two points, reports unitedcup.com. Fritz was followed by Madison Keys, who earned a 6-4, 6-2 triumph against Magda Linette.
Fritz and Pegula then completed a 5-0 sweep with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 10-6 mixed doubles win against Lukasz Kubot and Alicja Rosolska. Team United States is now 4-0 in mixed doubles in Sydney.
In the championship match, Team United States will face Team Italy or Team Greece. Italy leads Greece 2-0 in their semi-final tie. "I think whoever serves better is probably going to get over the line," Tiafoe predicted for the Fritz-Hurkacz clash Friday afternoon.
That proved prophetic. Fritz won 88 per cent of his first-serve points and was able to manoeuvre into comfortable positions in points behind his serve. Hurkacz earned two set points on return at 5-4 in the first set.
The Pole missed a mid-rally crosscourt forehand on his first opportunity and a forehand return just long on his second. Letting slip those chances proved his downfall. The tension could be cut with a knife inside Ken Rosewall Arena during the first-set tie-break, as neither man relinquished a mini-break through the first 11 points.
Fritz was able to take the initiative on his first set point and forced an error from Hurkacz's backhand into the net. Hurkacz also had opportunities to earn the match's first break at 5-5, 15/40 on Fritz's serve in the second set, but the American saved them with a big serve and forehand volley.
The Pole once again seemed in position to force a decider with two serves at 5/4 in the tie-break, but he missed two forehands, which allowed Fritz to close out the match and with it, the tie. Keys had split two previous encounters with Linette, both in the last two months.
Indeed, Linette's win had also been in team competition -- a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November. Both players brought an undefeated United Cup record into the match, and it was Keys who preserved hers with a dominant display of power.
She did not face a break point throughout a tight first set while consistently creating chances on return. Though Linette was able to fend off the first two break points she faced, in the second and sixth games, Keys converted her fourth of the day -- also a set point -- by hammering a backhand return.
A classy drop shot paved the way to Linette's only break of serve in the first game of the second set, but Keys responded by upping her focus to immediately break back and reel off six of the final seven games of the match.