The United States opened Day 1 of the United Cup with a pair of wins to take a 2-0 lead over the Czech Republic on Thursday. American men’s No. 1 Taylor Fritz opened the tournament with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Jiri Lehecka. World No. 11 Madison Keys followed with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Marie Bouzkova.
Taking advantage of the quick courts at Ken Rosewall Arena, Keys rallied from an early break in both sets to move her Head2Head record to 2-0 over Bouzkova. Both wins have come on Australian hard courts, with Keys winning their first meeting during her run to the 2020 Brisbane final.
Keys showed little sign of rust in her first match of the season. After losing her service rhythm with back-to-back double faults to hand Bouzkova an early break at 2-1, Keys dialed in her discipline and patience to methodically break through the Czech’s defense. She broke back with a measured forehand flurry to level at 2-2 and broke Bouzkova again to seal the opening set after 41 minutes.
With a set in hand, Keys’ strong serving won the day. The American faced just two break points, though Bouzkova clinically converted both chances, while generating six chances of her own. After breaking Bouzkova’s serve for a fourth and final time – on a driven net-cord winner – Keys served out the 80-minute win to give the Americans a clean sheet.
Earlier, Fritz wasted little time in earning his first win of the season when he overcame Lehecka 6-3, 6-4.
Competing on Ken Rosewall Arena, the World No. 9 outlasted the 21-year-old Lehecka in the baseline exchanges, demonstrating great footwork to dictate on his forehand throughout the 75-minute clash in Sydney.
“In a team event, first match of the year, there are always some nerves coming out, so it is great to come out and get the team ahead,” Fritz said. “Hopefully loosen everyone else up. It is a tough position to play if behind, so it is really good for the team.”
The 25-year-old also raised his level when needed, saving both break points he faced in his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Lehecka.
”When I was down, I felt that I was coming up with big serves when I needed the free points,” Fritz said. “I don’t think from the ground I maybe played my best, but when I was down break point or 0/30 I was coming up with big serves.”
Fritz enters the 2023 season off the back of a career-best year which saw him win three tour-level titles and crack the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time. Lehecka also enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2022, reaching his maiden tour-level semi-final in Rotterdam before he advanced to the championship match at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Team USA is one victory away from sealing the tie, which will resume on Friday. World No. 3 Jessica Pegula can seal the win when she faces No. 16 Petra Kvitova in the battle of singles No.1s. Following that match, No. 18 Frances Tiafoe will face Tomas Machac. Should the Czechs secure two wins, the tie will be decided by one mixed-doubles match.
The United Cup is a new mixed-teams event featuring 18 countries across Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. Played over two days, ties will be comprised of two ATP and two WTA singles matches and one mixed doubles match.
Source: ATP Tour