Fritz tops Hurkacz, puts U.S. in United Cup finals

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Taylor Fritz produced a composed performance against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz to clinch a spot for the United States in the final of the United Cup mixed teams tournament.

Fritz stepped onto Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney on Saturday with the U.S. holding a 2-0 lead after strong efforts from Jessica Pegula and Frances Tiafoe in Friday’s opening singles matches.

Pitted against fellow top-10-ranked rival Hurkacz, the 25-year-old Fritz prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) to give the Americans an unassailable 3-0 lead in the semifinal.

The reigning Indian Wells Masters champion has represented America in the Davis Cup but said combining with the country’s best women players enhanced the experience in the new competition.

“I have played with Team USA a lot and I think it is a huge advantage this time having the girls in our team because it just makes the whole team so much stronger,” he said. “I am super excited going into the finals and I think we have been the favorites all week.”

The U.S. awaits the winner of the other semifinal between Italy and Greece in the inaugural 18-nation competition carrying $15 million in prize money.

The Italians lead 2-0 and Greece needs Stefanos Tsitsipas to defeat Matteo Berrettini in their singles match Saturday night in Sydney to keep alive its United Cup finals hopes.

In the match between the world’s ninth- and 10th-ranked men, Fritz and Hurkacz initially dictated proceedings on serve. But as the opening set progressed, the games became tighter.

Fritz pushed his Polish rival to deuce on his service game at 4-all but was then forced to save two set points on his delivery in the following game.

The tiebreaker to decide the set was similarly tight, but a superb backhand from Fritz after a lengthy rally enabled the American to clinch it.

Little separated the two players in the second set either, with neither able to break the others serve once again. But once in the tiebreaker, the American again proved more reliable at critical moments.

Fritz had success during rallies targeting the forehand of Hurkacz, drawing errors on crucial points. This proved to be the downfall of Hurkacz, who was clearly angered after making three forehand mistakes in succession to drop a tiebreaker he had led 5-4.

The pair had not played against each other since 2019, when they split matches on grass in England and hard court in Canada, and both men have matured as players since then.

“From four years ago, I am moving so much better, I am returning serve so much better and being aggressive with the forehand … and going after shots when it matters,” Fritz said.

“No one could really get through for a [service break] but I think the difference in the tiebreakers is that I served well and put some returns in the court, played some really solid points and didn’t give him anything.”

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